Buddhism versus Bartleby the Scrivener

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Buddha Bartleby

Buddhism is currently the fourth most popular religion in our society today, following Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. Its major ideologies are based on the philosophies of Siddhartha Guatama, also known as “Buddha”, who began his teachings in 598 BCE at the age of 35, according to Buddhist texts. A Buddhist’s foremost aspiration is the obtainment of Bodhi, or enlightenment through meditation and Anapana-sati (awareness of the breath). Buddhism shares many ideologies with India’s Hinduism and Yoga such as non-harming, non-violence, and self-awareness. In many instances, people regard Buddhism as a way of life rather than a religion, for it has no clear belief in the idea of a God or Gods. Its structure is built upon a hierarchy much like Christianity where superior orders such as Lamas or the Dalai Lama are said to be chosen by nature through the process of reincarnation rather than by a council like Christianity’s Pope. Though these “higher level” Buddhists are rare (not everyone is a reincarnation of an ancient Buddhist “priest”), all are permitted to follow “The Middle Way” either as a Buddhist monk or the simple attendance of a weekly teaching session from time to time. Throughout the last few hundred years the Buddhist population has blossomed into a healthy 381,611,000 and over fifteen different sects including Zen, Mahayana, and Theravada.

For decades scholars and writers have attempted to find the historical analogies and symbolic figures that created Herman Melville’s short story “Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street”. The story describes the setting of a small “law-copyists or scriveners” office on Wall Street and the unexpected arrival of an unknown character named Bartleby (Melville...

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...ningful demise. So this Buddhistic view simply gives us an ideal understanding of Bartleby’s perplexing, meaningless actions and helps us realize that Bartleby might not be as crazy as he seems. He’s just trying to find his way…

Works Cited

Melville, Herman. “Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street.” Melville’s Short Novels: Authoritative Texts, Contexts, Criticism. Ed. Dan McCall. New York: Norton, 2002. 3-35.

Franklin, H. Bruce. "Bartleby: The Ascetic's Advent." Melville's Short Novels: Authoritative Texts, Contexts, Criticism. Ed. Dan McCall. New York: Norton, 2002. 176-85.

Sten, Christopher W. "Bartleby the Transcendentalist: Melville's Dead Letter to Emerson." Modern Language Quarterly 35 (1974): 30-44.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “The Transcendentalist”. EmersonCentral. Nov. 27, 2007. .
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