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Bartleby the Scrivener by Joan De Santis Literature Analysis Essay

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Updated: May 1st, 2020

Introduction

Many writers use various stylistic devices to come up with their work. They use them to ensure that their book remains relevant even decades after the story is written. A plain text is not captivating for a reader; it becomes boring to a big extent. Therefore, writers develop various styles to ensure that their work is interesting and simple to understand.

They also use these styles to represent the concepts that they want to get across (Armstrong 19). Most writers use symbolism and character development to frame themes in their scripts. Symbolism is the use of code to represent things rather than using the actual names. Though the novel about Bartleby, the scrivener, seems a rather plain, one-note story at first, a closer look at its elements will reveal that it is packed with symbols, which set the tone for the narration, and introduces the character development that conveys the moral of the story.

Character Development

The narrator is one of the characters in the story. He is a lawyer by profession and runs a law firm. His work is to help rich men manage their legal documents. He believes that the easiest way is always the best. He has employed two lawyers, who help him in his business. Because of their inconsistent work, he goes on to hire a third employee, who at first seems to be very hardworking.

Through this character, the theme of work and business in the world is framed. Although he is old, he owns a law firm and is focused on making it prosper. He says that he is a man, who has always believed that the easiest way in life is always the best (Melville 3). The narrator has also been used to showing the need for accountability and kindness.

Bartleby, who is one of his employees, requires help, and the narrator fails to help him. However, Melville makes the narrator go far beyond where many people would go; still, the narrator did not do what most readers would expect him to. He even blames Bartleby for his tribulations and asks him, if he was aware that he was the cause of the narrator’s misfortunes for insisting on occupying the entry even after he had been sacked from his previous job (Melville 195).

Turkey, an old man aged 60, is a lawyer at the narrator’s law firm. The narrator describes him as a good scrivener in the morning, but in the afternoon he is prone to mistakes. Through his character and excuses, he depicts the theme of laziness and an unfocused society. Turkey, despite being old and having a great experience in law, is active in the morning, but in the afternoon he becomes prone to mistakes. The narrator says that he would be careless and pours ink and would go to the extremes of making noise (Melville 6).

Nippers is a young lawyer at the same firm, and he is very comical character. He has problems working in the morning up to lunch time because he suffers stomach problems, but he works very well in the afternoon. He was an undecided man and kept changing his sitting position and adjusting his desk. The narrator stated that he was a man, who never knew what he wanted (Melville 11). Nippers is a representation of a lazy society that is unfocused and has no direction in work or life, for that matter. It is very unfortunate for a young man to complain about trivial issues and become very selective at work.

Bartleby is also a lawyer by profession. He is a hardworking lawyer, who works day and night, and his boss is very pleased with him. He becomes lawyer after working at the Dead Letters Office. Bartleby is also a silent and reserved man, who spends most of his time alone. He is a representation of loneliness and failure to interact with others.

He stays alone in the office till late, and the narrator tries to establish a connection between the reader and the character. The narrator says that Bartleby sat in his hermitage caring only about his own business (Melville 50). He is also an indirect representation of death. He says that his existence is a tedious course with pointless errands and submissions. In a harsh tone he asks if dead letters do not sound like dead men and that they represent misfortune and hopelessness (Melville 250).

Themes

In the story about Bartleby the Scrivener, the writer addresses various themes. The theme of business is touched upon; the narrator runs a law firm that assists people with documents. Despite Turkey being an old man, he is still working hard to make some money. These two characters educate people on the nature of the society. The narrator has lost his job, but chooses to run his own businesses instead of lying down and dying. He has had ups and lows but through his persistence he becomes a successful man.

Isolation and Loneliness

Bartleby is described as the most isolated character in the story. Since his arrival in the office, he spends most of his time alone, and at times he is in the office till late. His nature isolates him from communication with other people. The loneliness theme is educative to leaders, since loneliness is a somewhat universal concept that transcends time. This is an important lesson on the need to connect with people and share emotions.

Laziness and Lack of Direction

Bartleby and Turkey are represented as characters with no direction in life whatsoever. The narrator says Bartleby does not work in the afternoon because he is faulty, while Turkey, though being a young man, cannot work until he has had lunch. The lesson from this is the need for a society to embrace work and discourage laziness.

The Use of Symbolism

The firm owner reveals that Bartleby had worked at The Dead Letters Office, and he believes that it has something to do with his funny behavior. Bartleby says that dead letters were like dead people (Melville 250). The narrator’s interpretation was that reading all those letters written to dead people was disheartening and that it led Bartleby to a state of emotional detachment. When Bartleby changes his job he is willing to write letters, but not reading them; this serves as an indication that reading letters affected him. The letters issue is related to the theme of mortality and shows clearly that people are afraid of death, Bartleby being no exception.

The location of the events in the story is the Wall Street. The place of work has walls and partitions for each office. The narrator finds Bartleby seated in the prison with his face looking up the big walls (De Santis 30). This symbol helps in the description of the theme of isolation and loneliness. The partitioned offices and the office location help readers get a very graphic image of a lonely place and its effects on people’s behavior.

Conclusion

Business is an important aspect of the functioning of the society. Simply put, all people should work towards attaining success. In addition, people should work towards fighting laziness and embrace handwork to achieve life ambitions. These ambitions should be shared among people by interacting and avoiding loneliness.

Works Cited

Armstrong, Linda. Common Core: Elements of Literature. New York: Mark Twain Media. 2014. Print.

De Santis, Joan. (2009). “Bartleby the Scrivener: a Story of Wall Street.” Rhode Island College, 30-53. Print.

Melville, Herman. n. d. .

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Bartleby the Scrivener by Joan De Santis Literature Analysis'. 1 May.

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