The Dangers Of Conformity In Bartleby, The Scrivener And A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

1765 words - 7 pages

The Dangers of Conformity in Bartleby, the Scrivener and A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

    Authors can use various concepts to enhance or dictate the progression of their work. Ambiguity is one such tool that has the power to influence a story. In "Bartleby, the Scrivener" and "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," Melville and Marquez utilize ambiguity to develop their story's theme. Both authors focus ambiguity around the main characters in the stories to criticize the rigid rules of systems in society.

 

Melville's use of ambiguity in "Bartleby" is extreme and prevalent throughout the story. He introduces the reader to the narrator's office before Bartleby's arrival to explain the functional system that exists before Bartleby. The reader gains knowledge of the narrator's two copyists and is able to see that despite problems that each man poses, the narrator is able to control these idiosyncrasies.

 

Nevertheless, as he (Turkey) was in many ways a most valuable person to me, and all the time before twelve o'clock, meridian, was the quickest, steadiest creature, too, accomplishing a great deal of work in a style not easily to be matched - for these reasons, I was willing to overlook his eccentricities, though, indeed, occasionally, I remonstrated with him (545).

 

"But, with all his failings, and the annoyances he caused me, Nippers, like his compatriot, Turkey, was a very useful man to me; wrote a neat, swift hand; and when he chose, was not deficient in a gentlemanly sort of deportment" (546). Throughout the text, Melville is very verbose in describing each man's peculiarities and we can recognize that the narrator is tolerant of such quirks. The narrator is understanding of these problems because he knows exactly why and when they occur: he recognizes that Turkey is old and Nippers has indigestion. Nevertheless, the narrator feels that he has some control over his workplace. "[T]he irritability and consequent nervousness of Nippers were mainly observable in the morning, while in the afternoon he was comparatively mild. So that, Turkey's paroxysms only coming on about twelve o'clock, I never had to do with their eccentricities at one time" (547). Because the narrator can understand why and when his employees will be problematic, he is able to regulate the environment of his workplace. The narrator's office can be seen as a well-balanced machine; his understanding of the correlation between his workers provides him with ultimate control. "Their fits relieved each other, like guards. When Nippers was on, Turkey was off, and vice versa. This was a good natural arrangement, under the circumstances" (547). Until Bartleby arrived, the narrator trusted the efficiency of his rigid office scheme.

 

In contrast to Turkey and Nippers, Bartleby's idiosyncrasies are not understood by the narrator. "What my own astonished eyes saw of Bartleby, that is all I know of him" (543)....

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