Bartleby Essay Research Paper Society and fate

Bartleby Essay, Research Paper

Society and fate often restrict individuality and freedom of choice, and

Melville (in “Bartleby”) uses images of confinement, communication/lack thereof,

and instances of fate vs. free will to prove this. 1. The restriction that

society and fate put on people’s individuality and freedom of choice can be seen

through the images of confinement that Melville uses in “Bartleby”. 2. Bartleby

exercised his freedom of choice when he “gently disappeared behind the screen”

in the narrator’s office, but only because there was something else he wanted to

do, but couldn’t. 3. Bartleby is a mysterious character who does things for

reasons unknown to anyone else. 3. He one day just stops doing work, he hardly

ever, if ever, leaves his boss’ office (which is confinement), all he eats is

ginger nuts, and then he goes to jail for it, but nobody knows the reasons for

his actions and he doesn’t care to tell them. 3. It is clear by his actions,

that Bartleby although seeming to be exercising his right of free will, Bartleby

has to resort to confining himself in his employer’s office because there is

something else he wants to do, but can’t because of the tight restrictions

society has put on him. 2. At one point in the story the narrator describes how

“a voice came to me from within” the confinement of his office where the owner

of the voice had been all night, which would have been against the narrator’s

will had he known beforehand that the man was going to be staying there. 3.

Indeed the voice coming from within the narrator’s office was Bartleby’s, who

had stayed the night there with no hassles from anyone else because they knew

not of his decision to stay there for the night. 3. So, it was not until the

morning after that the narrator knew someone had been sleeping in his office and

using it as his home. 3. But Bartleby did not just occupy the office at night,

he also used it as his home during the day, confining himself behind the screen

wall. 3. Bartleby’s confinement behind the screen every day, and stay in the

office every night restricted him from taking part in certain actions that

people could normally do in their homes during the day or at night. 2. The

repeated phrase, “I would prefer not to” that Bartleby says throughout the story

shows the confinement of his thoughts being kept in his head. 3. Bartleby

refused to engage in conversation with other people in the story, and when other

people would try to engage in conversation with him he simply said that he would

prefer not to answer their questions, or do what they ask him to do, and that

was as far as conversation with Bartleby had gotten. 3. One possibility is that

he restricted himself from letting his thoughts go free, or beyond the

boundaries of his head for that matter. 3. The other possibility is that

Bartleby’s confinement restricted him from allowing his thoughts to exit his

head, no one will ever know for sure. 3. The reasons for Bartleby’s actions are

obscure to anyone, especially those who try to understand him, but some argue

that the reasons for his confinement in his employer’s office was because he

felt he could not find any better way to express himself. 4. Surely, the

restrictions of individuality and freedom of choice that society puts on people

in “Bartleby” can be seen through the confinement in the story. 1. The

restrictions that society puts on people’s freedom of choice and individuality

in “Bartleby” can be seen through Melville’s use of communication/lack thereof.

2. In one scene of the story, although the narrator had entered a room, Bartleby

“remained a fixture in” his chamber unmoved by his entrance into the room. 3.

Bartleby cared not that the narrator had entered the room, in fact, he probably

would have been happier if he had not even been put in the scene. 3. Bartleby

was a character who seemed to like to keep to himself, he did not really have an

interest in talking to other people or communicating in any way with others, he

would have much rather preferred to live on another planet all by himself with

the only supplies necessary for his survival: ginger nuts, shelter, and warmth.

3. Although his boss tried on numerous occasions (every day) to communicate with

Bartleby, to find out about his life or his purpose, Bartleby declined his

offers and stayed behind the screen wall most of the day doing nothing (or so

assumed nothing). 3. No one else tried to speak with Bartleby other than his

boss, and Ginger Nut, but only because Bartleby wanted food and had to ask him

to get the ginger nuts for him. 2. Bartleby’s signature phrase, “I would prefer

not to”, is an example of many things, one of which is the lack of communication

in the story. 3. Bartleby throughout the whole story makes it very clear that he

has no interest in talking to anybody and would much rather just keep to

himself, but people keep on talking to him. 3. In the story whenever anyone

would speak to Bartleby his answer (if he had one at all) would be that he

“would prefer not to” do something, or he “would prefer not to” answer a

question. 3. Well, as frustrating as this is, it is also very meaningful for the

characters in the story and the readers of the story. 3. It shows how society

(or an individual) has probably wounded or hurt Bartleby in some way in the past

therefore convincing him that he just should not bother with speaking to people

at all. 2. “I want nothing to say to you” is one of the few statements Bartleby

makes that is a change from “I would prefer not to”. 3. Throughout the story

Bartleby had no real interest, it seems, to speak with anyone. 3. When his boss

tried to speak with him he refused to answer any of his questions, and the same

when other people attempted to talk to him. 3. But Bartleby in this scene

actually stated that he did not want to talk with his former boss, for once in

the story he tells him that he has no interest whatsoever in speaking to this

man who has made incredible effort to get Bartleby to talk. 3. Some people may

say that this is a breakthrough point in the story because Bartleby finally

allows another human being to hear some of his thoughts, even if it is just in

one fragment of a sentence. 4. It is clear that in “Bartleby”, Melville’s use of

communication/lack thereof informs the reader that society and fate often

restrict individuality and freedom of choice. 1. The restrictions that fate and

society put on people’s individuality and freedom of choice can be seen through

Melville’s instances of fate vs. free will. 2. An example of fate vs. free will

in “Bartleby” is when Nippers, Turkey, and their boss were talking about

Bartleby and Nippers “strangely changed his mind” about his feelings about the

boss firing Bartleby. 3. In this scene, Bartleby has just upset his boss by

refusing to do something for the second time, and his boss is asking Bartleby’s

co-workers if they think he should be fired. 3. The co-workers are kind of

confusing people, it is almost as if each of them is one person in the morning,

and then another in the afternoon, they are very moody people and their feelings

about Bartleby are strong; Bartleby should give up the silent bit, and start

working and talking like a normal person. 3. The fact that Nippers’ mind had

changed shows how he was taking part in the act of free will on one hand, but

fate on the other. 3. If it was free will, then the boss did not fire Bartleby

and coincidentally he went to jail in the end a died. 3. If it was fate, then it

was meant for the boss to move offices and for Bartleby go to jail and die a sad

and lonesome death. 2. At one point in the story, after Bartleby had stopped

talking to people, he stated that he had “given up copying”, which in essence

means that he was officially quitting his job. 3. Although Bartleby had given up

speaking a few days earlier he now wanted to completely quit his job, because

his eyesight had begun to fail him, and still be aloud to stay in the building

day and night, this could have been an act of free will, or fate. 3. If this was

an act of fate, then Bartleby’s eyesight was meant to fail him so that he could

quit copying, force his employer to switch buildings, and then die in prison. 3.

If this was an act of free will, then all of that just happened as coincidence.

3. Whether it was free will or fate, no one can know for sure. 2. The best

example of fate vs. free will is whenever Bartleby says, “I would prefer not

to”. 3. That statement is the basis for the whole story and the motif. 3. If

Bartleby had just made that statement one time, then there would be no need for

a story because he could have easily gone back to work, but Bartleby made that

statement his favorite thing to say. 3. In response to almost everything phrase

made towards him, Bartleby had the same answer, “I would prefer not to”, no

matter what he was asked to do or say, that was his answer. 3. Bartleby’s life

was greatly influenced by this phrase that he so loved, so it could have easily

been either free will, or fate. 4. To sum it all up, Melville’s instances of

fate vs. free will help show the reader that because of fate and society

people’s individuality and freedom of choice are often restricted.


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