Bartleby The Scrivener Essay, Research Paper
If you analyzed life so much just to discover that it was meaningless, that you were just a machine, would you,
shut down, turn your self off? In the short story Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville, Bartleby does just
that. My ideas are very similar to those of Leo B. Levy. He believes that a spell was cast over Bartleby, and that
he was already dead because of a mental suicide. We have similar ideas about the theme, character, and setting,
and how they add to the story s darkness.
My ideas about theme are the same as Levy, that throughout the piece there was a definite murkiness seen
through everything, from the building where Bartleby worked to the writing style. An example of this murkiness is
The setting played a significant role in the story of Bartleby. The dark streets, the building where he
worked always in shadows. The fact that the story took place on Wall Street is key; during the day, it was bubbling
with people, while at night there was no one at all. This was because Wall Street is not a residential area only a
business area, so after five o clock, the place was like a ghost town. The interesting fact was that Bartleby lived in
the office, where he had no contact with anyone until morning.
On the other hand, Levy s ideas about how setting plays a part in Bartleby differ slightly from mine. He
says that Bartleby was enclosed by the financial power of Wall Street making the inference that Bartleby was
tweaked by the power that was around him. Also, saying that he was surrounded by blackness.
Character is the most important aspect of the story. It has long been disputed whether the story is about
the lawyer, or about Bartleby. In my opinion, they have the same amount of importance… without the lawyer there
would be no story, just as there would be no story without Bartleby. Levy agrees with me saying, the story is at
last as much the lawyer s as it is Bartleby s. Bartleby s character is at first perceived as lazy, but then the reader
learns more about his character. When Bartleby is left alone at night, he has hours to ponder about the unanswered
questions of the universe, such as the meaning of life, or the purpose of being. And after some time of thinking the
questions he answered them(what he thought). And that is what caused him to stop doing the tasks required for
everyday life, because in his mind there was no purpose to doing any of that meaningless work.
Levy has some other thoughts saying that the spell cast over Bartleby also falls upon a busy and frantic
scene, Saying that it is not original to Bartleby, that others have been the same way. Of the lawyer he says, With
Bartleby he shares the lifelong, frozen patience in which consists his strength and peculiarity that he is not
desperate… but merely devoid of hope. I would have thought that that describes Bartleby rather than the lawyer..
I think that I was on the right track, but that Levy went into more depth and detail. Over all, we had the
same basic ideas about theme, setting, and character, which are the most important factors in any story.