Free Bartleby's Rebellion and Societal Critique Essay Sample

A short story "Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street" by Herman Melville takes place in New York at the end of the 19th century. The narrator tells the story of the strangest scrivener he has ever seen, Bartleby The narrator is a lawyer, who owns the office on the Wall Street and describes himself as a peaceful and tolerable person.  He hires Bartleby, neat, presentable, but hapless man to work for him.

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Bartleby was good and accurate worker at first, but he turned out to be the person of one fraise, “I would prefer not to” do almost everything, including his work tasks, going home after work and eating. In my opinion, these changes have happened to him after several scenes when lawyer was telling what he wanted from Bartleby, without asking what his worker wanted to do. This might be normal in regular relationship of this kind, but not for Bartleby. His previous work at the dead letters office, where he had to perform useless tasks, has probably caused the loss of motivation to work and live at all. Bartleby was isolated from the society with both visible and invisible walls. Together with isolation he has got own idea of life and kind of freedom to do whatever he felt like doing, even doing nothing. For a long time no one cared for him and usual approaches didn’t work for him as well. After analyzing the existing situation, it becomes obvious to me that Bartleby’s respond sounded like calm but firm protest against commandments of the society.

Herman Melville’s short story puts forward a lot of moral issues, but doesn’t give clear solutions. During the story, the narrator tortures between his sense of compassion and responsibility for Bartleby and the wish to get rid of him, due to the danger that Bartleby represents to the office and narrator’s usual way of life. To my mind, the example of relationship between narrator and protagonist the author showed that, usually, when something doesn’t fit in the way some social structure is organized it should be removed or destroyed, despite of one’s needs or feelings. 

As the narrative unfolds, it becomes apparent that Bartleby's preference for non-conformity extends beyond mere defiance; it's a manifestation of his desire for a unique form of freedom. His insistence on doing nothing, a stark departure from societal expectations, suggests a radical redefinition of personal autonomy. This rebellion against the societal structure takes on a more profound significance when viewed in the context of the 19th-century setting in New York—a time marked by industrialization and a burgeoning capitalist ethos.

Bartleby's peculiar choices also reflect a commentary on the dehumanizing nature of certain professions, such as his earlier stint at the dead letters office. The monotony and futility of his tasks in that environment likely contributed to his disillusionment and withdrawal from conventional societal participation. Melville, in crafting Bartleby's character, presents a subtle critique of the impact of soul-crushing, bureaucratic occupations on an individual's spirit.

Moreover, the walls that isolate Bartleby are not only physical but symbolic, representing the barriers erected by societal norms. The story, in essence, delves into the consequences of such isolation—both for the individual and for those attempting to comprehend or manage someone who defies the established order. This exploration of isolation adds layers of complexity to the moral questions raised in the narrative.

In the complex interplay between the narrator's compassion and the societal inclination to eliminate what doesn't conform, Melville introduces a nuanced examination of human empathy and systemic rigidity. The lack of clear solutions forces readers to confront the uncomfortable reality that societal structures, when faced with unconventional challenges, often resort to uncompromising measures.

The story's resonance lies not only in its exploration of moral ambiguity but also in its timeless relevance. The tension between individual autonomy and societal expectations remains a perennial theme, inviting readers to reflect on the evolving dynamics between the self and the structures that seek to define it.


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