Bartleby, the Scrivener
Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!
The quote stated above in my opinion presents the message that Melville is trying to get across to the reader in the book. Bartleby acts as a symbol, and is used as a comparison to humanity. Many people have theorized on what exactly Bartleby symbolizes. Some take the view of Bartleby being a man similar to Jesus Christ, due to his sufferings in the novel and his ultimate sacrifice of death. To me however, this view comes across as a little misguided. It is fair to say that in the novel Bartleby suffers at the hands of humanity, but he contrasts Christ quite heavily in his actions. He only lives for himself and not for others, which is obviously different to the constant humanitarian work of Christ himself, healing the sick and proving hope for the masses. Bartleby is certainly not a man of miracles. While i think he has a strong character and lots of personal will, he is not selfless, and while Jesus died for our sins, Bartleby’s own character is the reason for his demise, not anyone else, although it is unfortunate that his character does not merge well with the world at large, with can be viewed as similar to the chronicles of Christ.
Bartleby come across as quite a tragic fellow, and always seems to misunderstand people, and vice versa. He has an interesting personality and is quite unique, but his position as a clerk requires none of these qualities. The other employees at the firm, such as Ginger Nut and Turkey also have their idiosyncrasies, but do not come across as unique. They like to follow the leader, and are very permissive of their boss, whereas by later on in the novel Bartleby seems jaded and only decides to take out the jobs set for him if he wants to.
Bartleby’s strength as a novel lies in its presentation of a unique character surrounded by monotony. Bartleby is not an ordinary person and does not live like most other people. Much of the time people like this are labeled as strange or freakish. This book presents the fact that such people do not fit in this dog eat dog world, and the apparent depression that Bartleby suffers is a poignant reminder of this.
- Melville, Herman. 1853. Bartleby, the Scrivener. October, 4, 2004.