Social Deviance in Bartleby the Scrivener
Bartleby the Scrivener is a story that takes place on Wall
Street, peopled by workers of a common mold. Being a non-conformatist of
the most extreme type, Bartleby is eventually suffers a death of
attrition. The message that Melville intends for the reader is how
society has little tolerance for social deviance.
I mentioned a common mold, the engine which impelled the
"society" of Wall Street to keep on existing. This common mold consists
of working a full day, going home and relax, possibly drinking some beer
This is where the theme of ostracization of social deviance comes
into play, expressed in the metaphor of individual versus society. Those
who do not fit into the common mold are pressured to change or are
removed forcibly. Bartleby is an example of a character that doesnÍt fit
anywhere even near the mold and is "removed."
Within this society that upholds the common mold there is a
hierarchy of obsessive qualities, some of which are admired and others
which are scorned and deemed to be in the realm of dysfunctionalism.
Bartleby is character that holds an aesthetic of performing only a single
action to the exclusion to everything else, this is his obsession.
BartlebyÍs obsession proceeds throught three stages before his
demise. Initially BartlebyÍs obsession is with his employ as a scrivener
by the narrator, and works day and night "as if famished for something to
copy." His obsession is single-mindedly with accomplishing as much
copying as humanly possible to the exclusion of everything else. The
first few attempts of the narrator to tell Bartleby to do something else,
no matter how slight the task, are abortive. The narrator chooses to ...