Bartleby the Scrivener

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In Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener, the lawyer—who also functions as a narrator— experiences internal struggle between religious morals and the modern capitalism ideas, but eventually chooses capitalism ideas over religious morals. Bartleby’s peculiar actions of refusing to do every activity, causes the narrator to view him as a mere object and pity him. The lawyer recalls the Bible and approaches Bartleby to offer him help in order to appease his own guilt of looking down on him. Through helping Bartleby, the lawyer is satisfied of himself of being a pious man. However, once he finds out that Bartleby is harming the lawyer’s successful business, he abandons him, forgetting his promise to help Bartleby. After Bartleby’s tragic ending, he again prays to God, which makes him feel better. Thus, the narrator uses religion to appease his selfish actions.

The narrator views Bartleby inferior to human being based on his misunderstanding of him which causes him to deal Bartleby with no seriousness. From the narrator’s point of view, he cannot understand how one does not eat, does not socialize with other people; therefore, he pities hum and views him as a toy. In fact, Bartleby, himself does not ever feel sadness because he his lonely or poor. The narrator does value Bartleby as an individual, but an object because he is neutral. The narrator says to Bartleby that, “You are harmless and noiseless as any of these old chairs; in short, I never feel so private as when I know you are here” (157). The narrator compares Bartleby to worn furniture and asserts that his existence is nothing more than an object. Therefore, this proves that the narrator sneers at Bartleby and does not respect him as an individual.

The lawyer justifies his looking down of Bartleby with the façade of religious good will for the sake of being able to portray a feigned compassion. Though the lawyer is annoyed of Bartleby’s resistance to “not prefer” to do work which is harming his business,...
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