The U Se Of Secrets As A Thematic Device In Bartleby.

1541 words - 6 pages

The Use of Secrets as a Thematic Device in "Bartleby"Secrets are an important theme in many stories. Secrets may be kept from the reader, from other characters in the story, or a character may be in denial, thereby keeping secrets from him or herself. These secrets could also be shared, with other characters, or with the reader. Ultimately however, it is the narrator of the story, through which the author speaks, that chooses to divest or obfuscate certain aspects of the story as it is related. The author of a work can also choose to conceal certain facts until a strategic moment in the tale, such as the climax, is reached. Herman Melville's short story, "Bartleby," contains examples of each of these ideas, and each is utilized in order to help further the plot or otherwise improve the narrative, through revelation or disguise.Silence and the idea of keeping secrets in literature can sometimes be more telling than the divulging of those same secrets. The way an individual denies certain things, or refuses to question circumstances, indicates the subtleties of not only their character but those of others as well. The idea of keeping silent and letting things go unexplained and unexplored is a key premise in Herman Melville's short story, "Bartleby".The narrator of "Bartleby" commences his tale with the statement, "I am a rather elderly man" (1178). By introducing the story with the phrase "I am" almost directly referencing the Cartesian phrase, "I think, therefore I am," the narrator implies that the self is predictable and can be explained. In the very same paragraph, however, the narrator contradicts himself; he denies that the self is at all knowable in the statement, "While of the other law-copyists I might write the complete life, of Bartleby nothing of that sort can be done. I believe that no materials exist for the full and satisfactory biography of this man.... Bartleby was one of those beings of whom nothing is ascertainable except from the original sources and, in his case, those are very small" (1178). The narrator intimates in this statement that that although he would like to tell the story of Bartleby, he is unable to because nearly nothing is known of him. Bartleby begins in the story as a conundrum, and remains that way throughout, very little is discovered about Bartleby, thus illustrating the point that very little is known.The narrator of this story, a rather 'safe' man, self- described as prudent and methodical, states in the beginning of the work that he is going to relate the story of Bartleby, "the strangest scrivener I ever saw or heard of," the narrator then begins a juxtaposition where everything except Bartleby is discussed in some detail. This technique of omission causes Bartleby to be discussed as more of a casual force than a person. By avoiding the main topic of his tale the narrator is able to give a clearer picture of it, it being Bartleby. This method helps the reader to better understand how others in the story,...

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