"Bartleby, The Scrivener" Essay

932 words - 4 pages

The lawyer, although an active member of society alienates himself by forming walls from his own egotistical and materialistic character. The story of "Bartleby the Scrivener" is told from the limited first person point of view of the lawyer, or narrator. This point of view allows the ego and materialism of the narrator to influence how the reader perceives the story. The lawyer points out; "All who know me consider me an eminently safe man". The lawyer is a very methodical and prudent man and has learned patience by working with others, such as Turkey, Ginger Nut, and Nippers. However, the lawyer's constant concern with his own self-approval cheapens his benevolence toward Bartleby. In fact, the lawyer is not able to see the desperate plight of Bartleby due to his unwavering concern of what the scrivener can do for the lawyer's self-approval instead of what he can do for Bartleby. In this sense, the lawyer's "wall" is a sort of safety net for his own ego. He does not allow Bartleby's irrationality to affect him because he does not believe that such a thing exists or matters. His materialistic sense does not acknowledge Bartleby's mental problem as reality since the lawyer believes that only physical matter really exists. Irony appears in the fact that the lawyer works in abstract things, such as paper deeds, which are really not of any substance except in the fact paper is not abstract. In a sense, the lawyer's entire life revolves around objects and ideas, which do not make sense to him although he is not aware of this.Bartleby contrasts the lawyer through his existentialism and completely non-materialistic identity. Bartleby cannot survive in such a world where conformity is a necessity for survival. Bartleby believes the world is meaningless so he must create his own meaning through constantly challenging what other people see as normal conformities. Bartleby's defiance and questioning is shown in the words, "I would prefer not to". The passive resistance exhibited by Bartleby confuses the lawyer. He has no chance of understanding Bartleby's non-conformity because the lawyer cannot rationally explain why Bartleby refuses to obey him over seemingly normal requests. The problem is that Bartleby is not being rational. The existentialist point of view, which Bartleby exemplifies directly, contrasts with the lawyer's materialistic point of view. An existentialist finds the physical world meaningless and an abstract reality, while a materialist believes the physical world is a reality and the abstract is meaningless and unimportant. The lawyer and Bartleby are helpless to ever understand each other's way of thought.The lack of understanding between the lawyer and Bartleby is portrayed in the lack of plot in "Bartleby the Scrivener." The simple...

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