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Bartleby, The Scrivener Essay

1441 words - 6 pages

Mother Teresa once said, “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat” (Teresa). Many people in our world are left forgotten in the numerous folds of our world, and those are the people who are the most important to pay attention to. Bartleby is an example of one of these people, someone who becomes poked fun at and sometimes rejected. However, Bartleby pushes on because of a deep devotion to finding his internal world, following through with his actions to his very end. Bartleby can be closely related to Henry David Thoreau’s principles in Resistance to Civil Government as Bartleby takes action in his own hands. Bartleby closely follows Thoreau’s principles in Henry David Thoreau's Resistance to Civil Government as the fulfillment of Bartleby’s spiritual quest surpasses the accomplishment in his physical life because Bartleby passively refuses to complete the tasks of his job, peacefully resists the demands of the narrator and others, and sturdily follows his path in the face of turmoil and discontent from others.
Bartleby follows his desire to fulfill his spiritual quest as he refuses to do his job without budging, causing uproar in the office and showing his devotion to his spiritual needs. Bartleby consistently shows his refusal to complete tasks with his constant counter to demands, “’I would prefer not to’” (Melville 1109). Bartleby shows a very straightforward consistency with his answers, whereas the narrator has great bursts of reaction to Bartleby’s refusal to do work. Bartleby shows a focus of his own needs by staring out the window among other things, rather than bowing down to the needs of his boss. “Somehow, of late I had got into the way of involuntarily using this word ‘prefer’ upon all sorts of not exactly suitable occasions.” (Melville 1111). Bartleby begins to show an influence over others in the workplace, causing a sort of chaos in the office. The narrator’s reaction to this realization show a slight fear, but further conveys a lack of knowledge about Bartleby. The narrator begins to create theories about Bartleby’s condition, showing fear of the unknown because of his wacky ideas for Bartleby. Bartleby adopts Thoreau’s principle of acting in the moment to work for what he wants, which can be explained through Thoreau’s writing that “Only his vote can hasten the abolition of slavery who asserts his own freedom by his vote” (Thoreau 847). When Thoreau says "vote," he does not mean an actual vote, but means to symbolize a man’s individual action to do what he wants, with the abolition of slavery as an example. Thoreau uses the link of slavery and freedom to show that we are slaves to the voting system, waiting for a game of chance to play out, yet when we take our own actions, we “assert our own freedom” through a refusal to wait. Bartleby asserts his freedom through the refusal to do work, causing the uproar...

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