Isolation and Society in "Bartleby"

Topics: Scrivener, Herman Melville, Bartleby, the Scrivener Pages: 2 (669 words) Published: December 10, 2010
Isolation and Society
What motivates you to be reasonable when it comes to normal requests? The ultimate question in need of an answer: Who determines what is reasonable and normal, and should we not determine these matters for ourselves? Chaos would result if every individual were granted that freedom. Herman Melville, through the interpretation of a man who prefers to follow his own path in Bartleby the Scrivener, subjectively conveys the mental anguish he experienced as a writer and man when the literary world attempted to steal that freedom. From the onset of Melville's story, it becomes quite apparent that Bartleby is a man who prefers not to do what society wishes of him. He prefers not to honor any request from his employer that would make him deviate from what he prefers to be doing. Herman Melville's Bartleby is a tale of isolation and alienation.

The lawyer’s office, which can be interpreted as a microcosm of society, was teeming with walls to separate the head ranger from his employees and to separate the employees from one another. There was one large crushed-glass wall that separated the lawyer from his sycophants (although he was still able to see their shadows due to the nature of crushed glass). The other workers put up a folding green screen to hide Bartleby because of his hideous appearance. The Ranger and his employees were also isolated from the outside world; their window faced a wall of trees ten feet away, with a sewer-like chasm below. Other indicators of isolation are evident later in the story. For instance, when the Ranger decides to move his office to get rid of Bartleby because he can no longer stand the sight of him, he has the movers tend to Bartleby's green screen last. When they finally take it, Bartleby is left "the motionless occupant of an empty room,"— an obvious sign of isolation.

Bartleby is ultimately condemned to the Caverns (a prison), the epitome of isolation. He dies alone, curled up in the fetal position up...
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