It is dangerous to isolate oneself; dangerous for an individual and for anation.”- Jawaharlal Nehru. The quotation says that isolating oneself canbe dangerous, as in the case of Bartleby, a character in Herman Melville’snovella Bartleby. Bartleby’s isolation was dangerous; it led to his depressionand his death. The motif of the story is the isolation of Bartleby from society.
Three literary devices support the motif: symbolism, descriptive passages, andirony. The walls symbolize Bartleby’s isolation from society; descriptivepassages convey his loneliness; irony further expounds upon the motif.
Symbolismsupports the motif of Bartleby being isolated from society. The symbolism is inthis quotation, “Still further to a satisfactory arrangement, I procured ahigh green folding screen, which might entirely isolate Bartleby from my sight,though note remove him from my voice.” In this quotation, the narrator putup a screen to separate his office from Bartleby’s, isolating him from the othermembers of his staff and thus from humanity. The phrase, “I prefer notto,” also tells the reader about Bartleby isolating himself.
The phraseshows his lack of involvement, another form of isolation. The narrator tells thereader exactly what he did to Bartleby, very vividly, as shown below. In thenovella, the author tells the reader, down to the smallest detail, what he didto Bartleby to isolate him from the world. He tells us in this passage, “Iplaced his desk close up to a small side window in that part of the room, awindow which originally had afforded a lateral view of certain grimy backyards,and bricks, but which, owning to insubsequent erections, commanded at present,no view at all, though it gave some light. Within three feet of the panes was awall, and the light came down from far above between two lofty buildings, asfrom a very small opening in a dome. Still further to satisfactory arrangement,I procured a green folding screen, which might entirely isolate Bartleby from mysight, though, not remove him from my voice.” The quotation describes howthe narrator secludes Bartleby from society. Even his window, usually a form ofescape, results in Bartleby being trapped behind another wall, thus reinforcinghis total isolation. The irony lies in the fact that the narrator, while tryingto isolate Bartleby, becomes affected by it, so much so that he appears almosthuman. Instead of dismissing him on the spot for refusing to copy, proofread orleave the premises, he tries to find other employment for him, and evenconsiders inviting him to live in his residence as his guest. The narratordevelops before our eyes into a caring person, very different from the cold,unsympathetic person at the beginning of the story. “To befriend Bartleby,to humor him in his strange willfulness, will cost me little or nothing, while Ilay up in my soul what will eventually prove a sweet morsel for myconscience.” The narrator would normally befriend Bartleby or any other”sucker,” but Bartleby has given him a conscience. The narrator hasrealized that a common blemish in a person does not determine the person. In thebeginning of the novella, the narrator only cared about his work, but now herealizes that people have a life outside of work, except Bartleby. The narratorthen changes into a caring person, and tries to know Bartleby, and his odd ways,even going the extra yard to help him. In the end, the narrator tries to saveBartleby from his doing, Bartleby’s undoing, Bartleby’s isolation. Inconclusion, in real life, the strange are always isolated from the normal.
During the 1950’s and 1960’s, blacks were isolated, or segregated, from society.
Now, many people are isolated: retarded, ugly, “uncool,” the deformed,and people with contagious, deadly diseases. In Bartleby’s time, the strangewere looked down upon or ridiculed at (as in Freak Shows), so Bartleby isolatedhimself and permitted others to isolate him from society. Eventhough thenarrator isolated Bartleby, Bartleby brought the isolation upon himself byliving an abnormal life. By not fitting into mainstream society, Bartleby lefthimself open to isolation. The three literary elements, symbolism, descriptivepassages, and irony, described how Bartleby’s isolation from society fit in thenovella. Jawahrlal Nehru said that isolation is dangerous, as in Bartleby’scase. Isolation can drive a person insane, make him mute, or even kill him. Thetheme is not to let yourself succumb to the prejudice of others, and letyourself be isolated.
Cite this Bartleby By Milville
Bartleby By Milville. (2019, Apr 14). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/bartleby-by-milville/