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Illness of the Mind Essay

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Updated: Jan 17th, 2019

“Bartleby the Scrivener” by Herman Melville and “Torquemada at the Stake” by Benito Pérez Galdós are two stories that might seem different at first, but have a common theme beyond the obvious context. The way people live their lives and excuses they make, often rely on the problems in their personal lives, more particularly their health. They use it as an excuse to do or not do things, and this can be either personal health problems or someone else’s.

In “Bartleby the Scrivener”, the theme is that the majority of characters have some sort of deficiency in them. Mostly, it is related to their personality and health issues that stem from individual characteristics. But in reality, an individual feels morally unhealthy, as he is not sure what will come next in life (McCall 6). As a result, a person starts making excuses and think up deficiencies that are not there. This is a clear cut case of a person being emotionally unhappy, so they have to make up for it in a physical way.

Bartleby is the most intriguing character. At one point, the narrator says: “I might give alms to his body, but his body did not pain him — it was his soul that suffered and his soul I could not reach” (Melville 26). This shows that even though Bartleby seemed like a good worker at first, he was unhealthy inside.

A moral sickness can be just as destructive as a physical one, which this story clearly illustrates. The character that Bartleby has set up for himself leaves others in awe, as they do not want to argue. Even the Lawyer cannot find it in him to argue when Bartleby refuses to take on some task. This also comes from the fact that Bartleby think very highly of himself, and being the person that he is, others must understand him and love him as he is.

“Torquemada at the Stake” is also a story that highly connects the physical world of health with that of mental one. Torquemada seems healthy when everything is fine. Even though he has lost his wife, it has not taught him anything, and he continues to be “sick” in the mind. When his son Valentin falls ill, he cannot believe it. Torquemada’s daughter, Rufina, tells him: ”It seems he has a dizzy spell. It was the professor who brought him home, in his arms” (Galdos 19).

This is such a shock to the father that he cannot move. It seems his eyes have been opened, as he wants his son to be well so much. He was proud of his intelligence, and now, the world was crumbling down. Right away, Torquemada becomes mentally ill. He believes that by giving away charity, his son will get better. He does not realize that he is doing the same thing, as he did with his wife, as “he spared no medical or pharmaceutical expense to save the poor lady’s life” (Appelbaum 7).

The two stories might seem different, but in reality, have a common theme of sickness in the body and mind. Both authors wanted to show that it is impossible for a person to be healthy if their thoughts are ill willed. It is described in a humorously sarcastic way, and this gives the two stories originality.

Today, it is understandable that socially some people want to take the easy way out. It comes from their personal unfulfillment. A person in the modern world will understand that strong character will lead to higher output towards society and themselves.

Works Cited

Appelbaum, Stanley. Torquemada at the Stake (Torquemada en la Hoguera): A Dual-Language Book. Mineola, NY: Courier Dover Publications, 2004. Print.

Galdós, Benito. Torquemada at the Stake. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1986. Print.

McCall, Dan. The Silence of Bartleby. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1989. Print.

Melville, Herman. Bartleby the Scrivener. ReadHowYouWant.com, 2006. Google Books. Web.

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IvyPanda. "Illness of the Mind." January 17, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/illness-of-the-mind/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Illness of the Mind." January 17, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/illness-of-the-mind/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Illness of the Mind'. 17 January.

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