The Piazza Tales Essay

The Piazza Tales

The 1856 collection of stories titled The Piazza Tales by Herman Melville was hailed during its release as a literal piece of genius. The time frame in which the series was published was a period at which the politics of slavery and racism were taking their course. Civilization, savagely and capitalism were a big threat to the democracy of America and hence his works reflected most of these scenarios. The eccentric character in the collection, Bartley as the first person narrator describes him is “an eminently safe man” who is a lawyer lives through a routine paper work (Melville, 1856). Bartleby who is a reliable worker suffers from depression and lack of motivation and as a result refrains from eating which ultimately causes his death.

By reading this literal piece one notices the philosophical ideals that Bartley choose to follow. His complete isolation from the world made him free and the fact that he did whatever he wanted made him achieve his objections of free will. However, his free will does not motivate him and he ends up undetermined and thus dies. The absurd style of the author also comes into focus as he depicts Bartley as choosing to face a blank wall rather than facing his desk. The lst sigh in this article “Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!” just illustrates the absurdness that the author tries to portray of humanity (Melville, 1856). The rumors that the narrator heard of Bartleby’s involvement in the dead letter office just acts to show how deep the main character had slipped into the gloom of darkness. Although the author has written masterpieces he has come short of writing things that can be perceived as real. He mostly writes strange and weird things that may be perceived to belong to other worlds. However, looked from a different angle the stories portray some kind of freshness, brilliance and invention that lacks in other pieces.


Melville, H (1856). The Piazza Tales. New York: Dix & Edwards