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Individual Freedom in Melville's Bartleby, the Scrivener

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Individual Freedom in Melville's Bartleby, the Scrivener

What motivates you to go to work everyday? What motivates you to dress the way you do? What motivates you to be reasonable when it comes to normal requests? Ah, the ultimate question in need of an answer: Who determines what is reasonable and normal, and should we not determine these matters for ourselves? Chaos would result, you say, if every individual were granted that freedom. Yet, we all do have that freedom, and Herman Melville (1819-1891) through the interpretation of a man who prefers to follow his own path in "Bartleby, the Scrivener", subjectively conveys the mental anguish he experienced as a writer and man when the literary world attempted to steal that freedom.

Dear Bartleby was a harmless man with a demeanor that was capable of disarming many. From the onset of Melville's story, it becomes quite apparent that Bartleby is a man who prefers not to do what society wishes of him. He prefers not to honor any request from his employer that would make him deviate from what he prefers to be doing. Bartleby's employer quickly realized that, "there was something about Bartleby that not only strangely disarmed me, but in a wonderful manner touched and disconcerted me" (2236). Bartleby gave no argument nor tried to justify denying his employers request. He would simply state, I would prefer not to. His only motive was to do as he preferred. Bartleby's employer found this expression of freedom very strange. Where did this man come from who has the audacity to break the pattern of normalcy that we all follow? He who will not "comply with my request-a request made according to common usage and common sense...(2337). However, what was "common" for others was not comm...

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...rican equals" (2292). Melville was not alive to witness this revival. Due to his resolve to retain his literary freedom, he was able to attain everlasting literary success that resounds from his own realm of reasonable and normal.

As for myself, I would prefer not to disclose any motivational reasoning for my own preferences; less I confuse even further those who still cannot understand my denying "normal and reasonable" request. "If I were to regulate the writings of my mind- I would never write".

Works Cited

* Melville, Herman. "Bartleby, the Scrivener." The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym. 6th ed. Vol.B. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003. 2290-2337

* Edwards, Jonathan. "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym. 6th ed. Vol.A. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003. 503
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