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The Savior Complex Essay

1039 words - 5 pages

The narrator of “Bartleby, the Scrivener” spends a large portion of the story covering his tracks in terms of guilt by adding long paragraphs of reflection and analysis not only on Bartleby, but also in justification of his own actions. Since the narrator is recounting a story from memory, these divergences from the basic storyline can be read as factual memory; however, given the subjective nature of memory, they provide more insight to the reader through the lens of analysis on the authenticity of the narrator’s voice. Throughout the entire piece, there are subtle implications of the narrator’s superior nature and self-righteous perception of himself and this specific passage concretely ...view middle of the document...

The narrator’s consistent insistence that Bartleby’s nature is not one of human means allows him to justify treating Bartleby as a non-human object which cannot be pushed outside of its limits since it has no limits that the narrator can comprehend. The narrator goes on to use the language of child-rearing when referring to Bartleby’s inability to control himself; his insistence that Bartleby “means no mischief” and that “his eccentricities are involuntary” is made to portray Bartleby as a child who needs to be shown the correct way to do things since he cannot innately understand the basic ideas of duty and responsibility. By doing this, the narrator strips away Bartleby’s agency and transforms him into a one-note character to which the audience can, in the same way the narrator does, treat with a superficial pity that seeks not to understand, but to fix.
In the same way the narrator warps language to portray Bartleby as a simple character, he does the same in order to turn himself in a one-note hero whose actions were consequently inevitable and justified. The language of protection and the necessity of said protection reveal a sense of superiority that the narrator clearly feels towards Bartleby. The narrator implies by using the hypothetical “less indulgent employer” that he is protecting Bartleby from a world that would otherwise leave him “miserably to starve.” The narrator attempts to use positive language, such as “to befriend Bartleby, to humor him,” in order to simplify the situation by casting a basic hero-victim dynamic in which all of his actions are justifiable by the noble cause of wishing to protect Bartleby. In a moment of rare self-awareness, the narrator admits that his supposed tolerance of Bartleby is “a sweet morsel for my conscience,” which colors the entire piece differently in that it allows the narrator’s memories and feelings to be recounted as a persuasive justification piece for the narrator and the audience as opposed to a straightforward story.
The structure of the overall piece is written in a legal style which...

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