The Symbolism of Eating and Food in Bartleby, The Scrivener

Topics: Ginger, Ginger biscuits, Herman Melville Pages: 4 (1260 words) Published: February 25, 2014
“Bartleby, The Scrivener” is a memorable story, by Herman Melville, that is able to keep its readers captivated from beginning to end. How does the author successfully grab the attention of his readers? The author utilized his masterful command of the English language to convey the characters, setting, and plot effectively; and in the midst of all the detailed descriptions Melville have used food and the action of eating as powerful symbols. In the story three of the characters have names that are associated with food, and the main character of study, Bartleby, eventually dies of starvation by choice. Given the setting of the story was in the onset of the second industrial revolution, the coming of the big corporations where Wall Street was the center of business activities. To survive, people at the time had to work like busy little bees serving as motors and gears in the mighty corporate business machines. The character of Bartleby represented the ultimate passive resistance to the onslaught of the wave that was sure to dominate the whole society. Food and eating was the oil and grease that keep the motors and gears running, Bartleby refused to be part of the corporate machine, he chose complete isolation and maybe that’s his version of freedom. Symbolism as a literary element has been widely used. The Webster’s dictionary defined symbolism as : “the art or practice of using symbols especially by investing things with a symbolic meaning or by expressing the invisible or intangible by means of visible or sensuous representations as artistic imitation or invention that is a method of revealing or suggesting immaterial, ideal, or otherwise intangible truth or states” (Hacker. 2011). As a masterful writer of literature, Melville used symbolism to create the physical setting, the bleak and mundane law office environment. In the law office there are four other characters other than the lawyer, the story’s narrator; they were Turkey, Nippers, Ginger Nut and...
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