Plot, Setting, Point of View, and Tone in Bartleby the Scrivener

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In the short story, "Bartleby the Scrivener," Herman Melville employs the use of plot, setting, point of view, characterization, and tone to reveal the theme. Different critics have widely varying ideas of what exactly the main theme of "Bartleby" is, but one theme that is agreed upon by numerous critics is the theme surrounding the lawyer, Bartleby, and humanity. The theme in "Bartleby the Scrivener" revolves around three main developments: Bartleby's existentialistic point of view, the lawyer's portrayal of egotism and materialism, and the humanity they both possess. The three developments present the lawyer's and Bartleby's alienation from the world into a "safe" world of their own design. The lawyer, although an active member of society, alienates himself by forming walls from his own egotistical and materialistic character. The story of "Bartleby the Scrivener" is told from the limited first person point of view of the lawyer, or narrator. This point of view allows the egotism and materialism of the narrator to influence how the story is perceived by the reader. The lawyer asserts, "All who know me consider me an eminently safe man" (Melville 131). The lawyer is a very methodical and prudent man and has learned patience by working with other, such as Turkey, Ginger Nut, and Nippers. However, the lawyer's constant concern with his own self-approval cheapens his benevolence toward Bartleby. In fact, the lawyer is not able to see the desperate plight of Bartleby due to his unwavering concern of what the scrivener can do for the lawyer's self-approval instead of what he can do for Bartleby. In this sense, the lawyer's "wall" is a sort of safety net for his own ego. He does not allow Bartleby's irrationality to affect him bec... ... middle of paper ... ...heme portrays the lawyer's, or narrator's, and Bartleby's alienation from society into a safe world which they have designated themselves, symbolized by physical and figurative walls. Bartleby's existentialism and isolation, and the lawyer's egotism and materialism demonstrates the differing characterization of humanity they each possess. Works Cited Hoffmann, Charles G. "The Shorter Fiction of Herman Melville." [1953] Critics on Melville. Ed. Thomas J. Rountree. Coral Gables, FL: U of Miami P, 108-10. Melville, Herman. "Bartleby the Scrivener." [1863]. Literature. 5th ed. Eds. James H. Pickering and Jeffery D. Hoeper. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice, 1997. 131-57. Seltzer, Leon F. The Vision of Melville and Conrad. Athens, OH: Ohio UP, 119. Tsuchinaga, Takishi. "Bartleby the Anchor." Journal of Rakuno Gakuen University 16 (1991): 1-13.

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