“I prefer not to:”
Bartleby the Scrivener and his passive protest of the dehumanizing effects of capitalism.
Due Date: November 3, 2017
“Nothing so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance,”
The character of Bartleby in Herman Melville’s novella “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street” is a person who refuses to become an object in capitalistic society. Initially, he is the perfect example of the objectification and mechanization of commodification of humans in the workplace. In essence, Bartleby is a machine that continually produces. Ultimately, he begins to resist the mind numbing repetition of his tasks and the mechanization of his life. The other main character, the narrator, is a facilitator of the capitalistic machine. He dehumanizes his employees by ensuring that their free will is denied in the workplace by using objectifying nicknames, providing a workplace devoid of human touch and connection; and perpetuating mechanized, repetitive work. Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” shows the dehumanizing effects of working in a capitalistic environment and ultimately suggests that one must conform to a standard way of life or will cease to exist.
One of the first ways in which Melville begins with the dehumanization of the workers is through the narrator’s use of condescending nicknames for his employees: Turkey, Ginger Nut and Nippers. The reader does not know their actual names and never learns them. Their nicknames are what becomes an important commodity to this novella. When one thinks of a turkey, we tend to think of an animal, “Nippers” sounds more like the name you would give a dog, while Ginger Nut is the name of a cake. Why give them these names though? They are given to these individuals based on how the narrator sees the workers productivity and how useful they are to his office specific times of the day. An example of this can be seen with his scrivener Turkey. In the mornings, Turkey does “a great deal of work in a style not easy to be matched.” However, in the afternoon, Turkey has drunk a few drinks with his lunch, his face is red like a turkey, and he has lost all energy towards any type of productivity for work. Contrastly, Nippers is not productive for the first part of the day, and realistically is not a morning person at all. He gets his name because he is irritated for working for someone else while is an extremely ambitious person, so he “nips” at people, much like a dog can. Ginger Nut, the office boy, has this nickname because he is described as the “cake and apple purveyor for Turkey and Nippers.” These names are condescending to these particular the employees, which in turn, helps to further the agenda of making people in to commodities in order for capitalism to thrive. These nicknames have another purpose other than just being condescending. By the narrator describing them by what their purpose in the office is, they have been...