Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne Show the Unbridgeable Gap Between Human Desires and Human Possibilities and the Mixture of Good and Evil in Even the Loftiest of Human Motives

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Eric Santangelo
Hawthorne and Melville
In both works, “Bartleby the Scrivener” and The Scarlet Letter, Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne show the unbridgeable gap between human desires and human possibilities and the mixture of good and evil in even the loftiest of human motives. In “Bartleby the Scrivener” by Herman Melville, this idea is shown by how the Lawyer keeps Bartleby as one of his employers, even though Bartleby does not deserve to still be working. In the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, this idea is shown through Hester and Dimmesdale’s relationship and also through the contrast between the Forest and Town.

In “Bartleby the Scrivener” the Lawyer’s actions, or lack there of, display the unbridgeable gap between human desires and possibilities. When The Lawyer first hired Bartleby, he does great work and listens to all the demands of his employer. Then suddenly Bartleby starts to decline all requests and demands of the Lawyer with four simple words, “ I prefer not to.” Not fully understanding Bartleby’s change in heart, the Lawyer eventually discovers Bartleby living in the office as if it is his own home. The Lawyer then offers Bartleby his apartment but once again Bartleby declines. The Lawyer says “turn the man away by an actual thrusting I could not; to drive him away by calling him hard names would not do; calling in the police was an unpleasant idea; and yet, permit him to enjoy his cadaverous triumph over me? —This too I could not think of “(Melville 664). This statement from the Lawyer proves that he does in fact care about Bartleby. Although his human desire wants to get rid of him, the Lawyer does not know a human possibility in which to do so. As a result, the Lawyer changes buildings so that Bartleby becomes the next owner’s problem, despite the evil implications of the act. The next owner does not take any pity on Bartleby and has him sent to jail. While in jail, the Lawyer displays good intentions by still looking...
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