Bartleby Vs. A Sorrowful Woman

Topics: The Wall, Wall, St. Martin's Press Pages: 5 (1250 words) Published: November 30, 2014

A STORY OF Once upon a time
Mary Trumble
Although both the woman in “A Sorrowful Woman,” by Gail Godwin, and Bartleby in “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” by Herman Melville, are different characters with different lives, they both are almost the same in the way they are passive resistive, have mental illnesses, and nonconformists. Each story is set in a different time period, different surroundings and situations, yet they both have the same themes.

The woman in “A Sorrowful Woman,” is a mother and a wife. She lives in a normal household, she cooks and cleans, and cares for her family. Despite this normal life she is living, she is sad and depressed. Her family does nothing but makes it worse. “The sight of them made her so sad and sick she did not want to see them ever again.” (Godwin 33) The woman eventually backs away from her life, turning on her family, slapping her child, and making her husband do all the house work. The husband does all he can, he tries to help by giving his wife a draught every night to put the woman to sleep. But nothing can repair the woman’s problem, and she eventually kills herself with the draught. “A Sorrowful Woman,” is told from a third person point of view so the reader views the story play out from the outside. The reader knows no feelings or thoughts of any of the characters.

Bartleby is a quiet reserved guy who lives during the industrial revolution. He is a scrivener or law-copier, he works for a lawyer and is a very hard worker. He doesn’t take breaks or even seem to eat or sleep. He has no home or family, he is quiet and the reader knows nothing of his background. “I believe that no materials exist for a full and satisfactory biography of this man.” (Melville 91) “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” is told in first person point of view. The reader views the story through the lawyer/narrators eyes and thoughts. “The reader is restricted to the perceptions, thoughts, and feelings of that single character.” (“Point” 151) Bartleby eventually quits writing and does nothing. He prefers not, to do any work or really anything at all. He eventually gets thrown in jail, and kills himself in jail.

Both Bartleby and the woman have problems that cannot be understood or comprehended, and also that cannot be overcome. The woman is supposed to be a good mother and wife according to society, but she is incapable of doing that. Bartleby is supposed to respond to commands according to society, but he is incapable of that. Both Bartleby and the woman are passive resistant, they have an opposition to authority and to what they are supposed to be and how they are supposed to act. This problem eventually kills them both.

Throughout “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” and “A Sorrowful Woman,” there is a symbolism of walls. In “A Sorrowful Woman,” the woman puts herself into a room with white walls and locks herself away from her family and the outside world. “All day long she stayed in the white room.” (Godwin 36) These walls separate her and lead to her final decision. The woman also has mental walls up, she does not let her husband or child fix her, instead they destroy her. In “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” the symbolism of the walls manifest. Bartleby’s desk is put behind a wall, separating him physically and emotionally from his coworkers. The view out the office window is a brick wall. They work on Wall Street, which represents money and materialistic people, and Bartleby is the opposite. Bartleby also dies touching a wall, “Strangely huddled at the base of the wall, his knees drawn up, and lying on his side, his head touching the cold stones, I saw the wasted Bartleby.” (Melville 114) “The walls are symbols of the deadening, dehumanizing, restrictive repetitiveness of the office routine, as well as of the confining, materialistic sensibilities of Wall Street.” (”Symbols” 188)

Both Bartleby and the woman in the end, kill themselves. The woman is incapable of satisfying her family, she acts irrational and...

Cited: Godwin, Gail. "A Sorrowful Woman." The Bedford Introduction to Literature . Fourth Edition ed. Boston, MA: BEDFORD BOOKS of St. Martin 's Press, 1996. 33-37.
Melville, Herman. "Bartleby, the Scrivener." Bedford Introduction to Literature. Fourth Edition ed. Boston, MA: BEDFORD BOOKS of St. Martin 's Press, 1996. 91-114.
"Irony." Bedford Introduction to Literature. Fourth Edition ed. Meyer, Michael. Boston, MA: BEDFORD BOOKS of St. Martins Press, 1996. 232.
"Point of View." Bedford Introduction to Literature . Fourth Edition ed. Meyer, Michael. Boston, MA: BEDFORD BOOKS of St. Martin 's Press, 1996. 151.
"Symbolism." Bedford Introduction to Literature. Fourth Edition ed. Meyer, Michael. Boston, MA: BEDFORD BOOKS of St. Martin 's Press, 1996. 188.
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