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Bartleby The Dead Letter Essay

1066 words - 5 pages

Herman Melville wrote about Bartleby in Bartleby the Scrivener and in The Dead Letter Office. The Dead Letter Office is a post office in Washington D.C. where letters end up at a dead end because the letters were not able to reach the destinations they were sent to. So whoever they had been sent to never got those them. Bartleby's job was to get those letters and later on burn them. In Bartleby the Scrivener, Bartleby no longer works in the Dead Letter Office; he now works for a lawyer. "Dead Letters And Dead Men: Narrative Purpose In 'Bartleby'" written by Thomas R. Mitchell and “Melville’s Bartleby, The Scrivener" by Todd Giles are both critical articles where the authors point out different meanings from “Bartleby the Scrivener” relating Bartleby to a dead letter. There is great significance within the story between Bartleby and the Dead Letter Office because it plays a big part on Bartleby’s character , such as not being the average worker, lost, and antisocial, by having Bartleby compared to a dead letter.
An example that the dead letter office job plays a part in Bartleby’s character is Bartleby isn't the average office worker. He is the weird guy no one likes, doesn't do his work, and just spends hours sitting and staring. When asked to do something, he responds with "I would prefer not to". There isn't much of an argument being created with someone who doesn't give much to argue with. Yet, “Bartleby is improper, propertyless, without possession, while at the same time in full control of his own possession"(Giles). He tends keeps to himself instead of letting others know more about him. Nothing is known about Bartleby, except for what one can see and take in; such as his name, or that he never leaves the office. In Bartleby the Scrivener, "Bartleby's story itself is symbolically a "Dead Letter": "Dead Letters! Does it not sound like dead men?" Containing messages of hope, relief, pardon, good tidings, "On errands of life, these letters speed to death" (Mitchell). Being removed from the dead letter office job, Bartleby is now working at another office as a scrivener for a lawyer, who is also the narrator for “Bartleby the scrivener".
Working at the dead letter office he saw many letters, who became lost forever, similar to who Bartleby is, a lost man. Bartleby had to deal with mail whose owners they were unable to identify. A dead letter is a letter that's destination and origin could not be reached, so it is then sent to a place called the dead letter office. As Mitchell states, “The narrator's attempts to communicate with him and to offer him the hope that sympathy and charity can provide seem as incapable of reaching Bartleby as are the "Dead Letters" of reaching their addressees." Mitchell also says that the narrator brought up the "Dead Letter" with the purpose of writing a biography on Bartleby, "because he does not want Bartleby's story to be consigned to the oblivion of an "unopened," unknown "Dead Letter."" Since Bartleby...

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