American Capitalist Society In The 19th Century

1463 words - 6 pages

Herman Melville’s Utilization of Bartleby the Scrivener: the Story of

Wall Street As a Means of Criticizing Capitalism and Its Crimes

Against Humanity

Herman Melville's "Bartleby, The Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street"
scrutinizes the alienation of labor, the social ideologies and the
dehumanizing consequences of the American capitalist society in the
19th
century. Bartleby is the main character in the story. The other
characters
in the story, Ginger Nut, Nippers and Turkey, barely survive their
pragmatic enslavement because they have been brainwashed by the
ideology of
complying and acknowledging their given place in society. Bartleby
separates himself from the other scriveners by daringly preferring not
to
surrender to the capitalistic authority. In 1856, Wall Street in New
York
City was solidly established. The 19th century brought an
"organizational
revolution"(Marx 102) to America which resulted in the creation of the
banking and credit establishments, brokerage houses and a prosperous
stock
exchange. A few years before Melville wrote Bartleby there were heated
conflicts between wage slaves and capitalists. Goods were beginning to
cost
less to produce

Lander Shafer 1 and craftsman could not produce goods so easily or
quickly.
Hostility and anger between craftsman and capitalists began to cause
street
riots. Visualize the drudgery of a repetitive task for hours a day.
Think
of losing all your inspiration and intelligent independence to the
degree
where your career becomes nothing more than a robotic reaction. We can
see
clearly how dissatisfying and hollowing a mundane task can be everyday.
So,
what can the unsatisfied worker do about their lowly position? First,
the
worker becomes numb to the endless drudgery by aiming attention at the
possibility of wages to be earned. Secondly, the worker can endure the
mundane employment by participating in extra curricular activities such
as
theater, movies, alcohol and drugs of all sorts. The worker could learn
a
new skill and get promoted, but will that necessarily change his or her
imprisonment of the wage labor system?

Karl Marx wrote about labor divisions and used the example of the
assembly
line workers at a car manufacturing company. The worker’s job was to
continually attach one bolt without ever having the satisfaction of
completing a whole automobile. This worker has no creative power to
freely
build a transmission in the morning and then the freedom of creating a
new
braking system in the afternoon. "For as soon as the distribution of
labor
comes into being, each man has a particular exclusive sphere of
activity,

Lander Shafer 2 which is forced upon him and from which he can not
escape"
(Marx 160). The identical theorem exists in the offices of Wall Street
for
the scriveners who copy legal documents. Bartleby, Turkey and Nippers
execute the same automatic task throughout the day. The only relief is
a
possible...

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