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Abandoned Communication & Companionship

Uploaded by avalonmyst23 on Dec 06, 2005

“Solitude vivifies; isolation kills.” (Roux 1886)

“Bartleby, The Scrivener” by Herman Melville is abundant with isolation and Bartleby’s failure to connect with humanity. Bartleby portrays one of the most isolated characters in literature. Bartleby's environment cuts him off from nature and often, from humanity. During the day, Bartleby stares out his window at a wall in which Wall Street reveals a bleak and unnatural landscape. Bartleby also stays there during the night, when the bustling human population vanishes and the streets become desolately empty. The narrator makes attempts to learn about Bartleby and help him, but all attempts meet with failure, and the narrator gives up. The theme of isolation in this story can be found within four elements: character symbolism, descriptive passages, irony and the novellas theme.

As the narrator first introduces us to Bartleby, he says, “I can see that figure now – pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn!” (Melville 15) These words by definition are paleness, deservedness of pity and forever sad or lonely. Right away, the narrator characterizes Bartleby as a lonely, pitiful man that has no sign of life left inside of him. This leads the reader to believe that Bartleby has low self-esteem and isolation issues. Choosing to take a standpoint when not really having one, Bartleby refuses to work, kindly saying, “I would prefer not to.” (Melville 24) This tells us that he may feel menial and that his work was mediocre by the standards given. His withdrawal issues tell us that he attempts to isolate himself from society. From a psychological perspective, this leads the reader to believe that either he was forsaken as a child and found that contentment is individualistic, or more presumably is that society may have marred him before, leading him to the same zealousness as previously stated.

Melville’s use of descriptive passages shows how the narrator attempts to disassociate and isolate Bartleby by his placement in the office. The narrator tells us exactly what he did to Bartleby, down to the smallest detail, to isolate him from the rest of society:

“I placed his desk close up to a small side window in that part of the room, a window which originally had afforded a lateral view of certain grimy backyards, and bricks, but which, owning to insubsequent erections, commanded at present, no view at all, though it...

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Uploaded by:   avalonmyst23

Date:   12/06/2005

Category:   Literature

Length:   3 pages (726 words)

Views:   1741

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