In Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-street” Bartleby is a scrivener who suddenly decides to leave his work aside and not do it ever again. He was employed by a lawyer to perform labors as a law-copyists, his new boss assigns him a place near the office window. Initially, everything goes well as for Bartleby’s performance, but one day his boss requests his assistance to examine a few legal documents, and he replied: “I would prefer not to” (Melville).
Since then, he began to replay the same phrase to every request made from his boss, but he continues working as a copyist. Soon it is discovered that Bartleby has never left the office, and that he has begun to reside there. After sometime, Bartleby stops writing and is fired, but he never leaves the office. Because of this behavior, his boss moves the office to another building, trying to avoid expulsing Bartleby by force. Bartleby does not leave his former place of work not even when this one is occupied by new tenants. Finally, he is arrested and starves to death in prison.
If you read the above summary of the story you might conclude that it is simply about a man that begins a series of systematic omissions that cost him his life, but in my opinion this idea not only would be incorrect but it also contrast the of the story because, Bartleby’s omission to his boss requests is separated from his will. Along the story we live with the copyist his painful process of detachment from his existence. The narrator tells us about the poverty of the employee; it is so precarious that he has to secretly live in the office where he works. His loneliness is described.
We begin to understand that his inaction is a possible escape, although we can’t completely understand Bartleby’s suffering. With the narrator’s piety, who tries to help his employee to return to the world of action we visualize a world so rare to us, because of the innumerable amount of action in our everyday lives. Anyone might reason that Bartleby looks for an existence without pain and not simply a non-existence. The answer is in Bartleby’s attitude, which prefers development and transformation. If Bartleby had preferred to die, he had simply committed suicide somehow.
But not, it doesn’t seem like Bartleby was looking for his death or in other words to finish his existence, Bartleby, on the contrary, sticks desperate to life and search on it for an escape, a transformation. Bartleby does not look to escape from life, Bartleby looks for an escape from pain and suffering. Bartleby’s “human nature” is his pain, his anguish; Bartleby was “the forlornest of mankind” (Melville 148). Bartleby does not refuse, but he does not agree either, “Bartleby does not have desires, he has preferences” (Melville 151). Bartleby was alone in the middle of the universe” (Melville 149). There is nothing that justifies his existence nothing exists in him that could create sense. I believe that Bartleby’s pain is the pain of his human nature and, as the narrator finishes the story “Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity! ” (Melville 161). The transformation that Bartleby seeks consists in reducing his “humanity”, because the more human he is, the more pain he will experience. We can clearly see how the author proceeds with the transformation of reducing Bartleby’s “humanity”; first is how Bartleby’s progressively stop communicating.
At first he just begins by repeating the same phrase over and over again “I would prefer not to” and the he just pass to be the “silent man” in prison (Melville 160). Second we see how Bartleby lost his humanity by been compared to an object, when the narrator says: “…you are harmless and noiseless as any of these old chairs…” (Melville 153). What is only left for me is to conclude that Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener: “A Story of Wall-street” in my opinion, is the story about the sense of absence.
It is about getting rid of one’s “humanity” to put an end to suffering. This escape from pain and suffering can’t be reached by ending one’s life, it occurs during the search of a transformation. We all can reach such transformation, or at least we can spend our lives of our own metamorphosis.
Hunter and Kelly J. Mays. “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-street. ” The Norton Introduction to Literature. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006. 133-161. Melville, Herman. “Bartleby, the Scrivener: a Story of Wall Street. ” Booth, Alison, Paul J.