Bartelby The Scrivener Essay, Research Paper
Herman Melville, an American novelist and major literary figure explored psychological themes in many of his works. Through his writing, Melville recreated a part of life that existed then, and is prevalent in our society today. Low self esteem along with self-perception and how others perceive us can be a factor leading to depression. Depression, if left untreated can become so severe that it is possible to cause someone to lose the will to live. I will clarify this illness and it’s ill effects in the story “Bartleby the Scrivener”, by Herman Melville.
Bartleby, the main character in this story, starts out a worker in the dead letter office in Washington. Exposing someone to a depressed situation can have an effect on one’s mental health. He later becomes a scrivener on Wall Street. When first hired Bartleby is a very consistent employee. “I can see that figure now- pallidly neat, pitiably respectful, incurably forlorn, it was Bartleby.”
Circumstances as well as fate have a varying effect on every human being. They could have a detrimental or positive effect in our life. Bartleby is an extreme example of a character trying to achieve his individualism in society and failing with the price of death. Bartleby’s existence as we were led to believe seemed like a death in life existence. Bartleby was a man incapable of experiencing emotions and isolated himself from his environment. “A lofty brick wall, black by age and everlasting shade.” A lot of Bartleby time was spent staring outside at the blank wall, which seemed to be a reflection of the isolation and loneliness in his own life. As time passed Bartleby verbally stated when asked to comply with his work responsibilities “I prefer not to.” His protest for the work was very direct and yet very passive. Bartleby seems to have a distinctive, dysfunctional personality. “But he wrote on silently, palely, mechanically”. This passage shows the debilitating effects of such a depressed life. “I prefer not to” seemed to be the only verbal communication he was capable of at the present time. Although he appeared to be referring to his work subconsciously his true feelings for death were stated, as “I prefer not to.”
As the story continues it becomes obvious that Bartleby could not be saved from himself, nor did he want help from anyone else. Bartleby seemed to put up a brick wall between him and the world. He would not allow anyone into his self-destructive deteriorating world. “Strangely huddled at the base of the wall, his knees drawn up, and lying on his sides, his head touching the cold stone, I saw the wasted Bartleby.” From this excerpt, we see that depression is a powerful and vengeful illness that caused Bartleby his life. “And I trembled to think that my contact with the scrivener had already and seriously affected me in a mental way.” Although it was Bartleby who was the victim of depression it had its ill effects on people around him.
I found Bartleby the Scrivener a disturbing story due to its reality. Bartleby like many people did not seek the assistance that is available and viewed death as a cure. Depression can dramatically impair a person’s ability to function in the work force as well as in social situations. Sometimes people view depression as a sign of personal weakness, and never see themselves as having the strength and desire to live life to their fullest potential. Bartleby possessed some good qualities, which he never realized, and he did not receive what he felt was justifiable recognition.
Each and every one of us possesses different strength and weakness, but we must know and feel that the way to escape from this illness is not to escape from life. This was not the scenario for Bartleby. Death was a high price to pay. A person has to have the will and desire to live. Bartleby lacked what he needed to even try.