Isolation And Society In Bartleby, The Scrivener

702 words - 3 pages

Isolation and Society in Bartleby, the Scrivener


      Herman Melville's Bartleby is a tale of isolation and alienation. In his story, society

is primarily to blame for the creation and demise of Bartleby.


      Throughout the story, the characters -- Bartleby in particular -- are isolated from

each other or from society. The forester's office, which can be interpreted as a microcosm

of society, was teeming with walls to separate the head ranger from his employees and to

separate the employees from one another. There was one large crushed-glass wall which

separated the lawyer from his sycophants (although he was still able to see their shadows

due to the nature of crushed glass). The other workers put up a folding green screen to

hide Bartleby because of his hideous appearance, who was also alienated from the rest of

the workers. The Ranger and his employees were also isolated from the outside world;

their window faced a wall of trees ten feet away, with a sewer-like chasm below, and the

rest of the room was of course enclosed by walls. Other indicators of isolation are evident

later in the story. For instance, when the Ranger decides to move his office to get rid of

Bartleby, because he can no longer stand the sight of him he has the movers leave

Bartleby's green screen for last. When they finally take it, Bartleby is left "the motionless

occupant of an empty room," an obvious sign of isolation.  Even in the vast wilderness,

Bartleby is isolated.  Also, Bartleby is ultimately condemned to the Caverns (a prison), the

epitome of isolation. He dies alone, curled up in the fetal position up against a wall of the

prison yard, which makes him seem even more alone and isolated than he was in life.


      Society (in this microcosm represented by the Ranger's office) is responsible for


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