Bartleby The Scrivener Social Context

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In Bartleby The Scrivener, Herman Melville comments on social context and norms through the use of the main character, Bartleby. The story as a whole comments on the uniformity of norms, social context, and how Bartleby defies that context within the story. Bartleby both fights, fits, and changes his social context through his descriptive appearance, defiance of norms, attempt to be included in normal society, and his reactions to the social context. The largest and most obvious context within the story is that of the office, and it is apparent that there is no context of the characters outside the office. Even the narrator comments “As yet I had never of my personal knowledge known him (Bartleby) to be outside of my office”(Melville, 1856:…show more content…
The first refusal “I would prefer not to”(Melville, 1856: 7) may have just been a result of Bartleby's mood, but as the story progresses, the ‘preferring not to’ intensifies. The audience may find themselves irritated with Bartleby, and reasonably so, because the context of a professional job includes following the bosses orders with respect, but Bartleby defies this. Through Bartleby’s refusal to do his job, Melville displays the way in which Bartleby fights his social context. In the office setting, the expectation and norm is that of a cohesive working environment, but Bartleby defies this norm by simply saying “I’d prefer not”(Melville, 1856: 7). “He refuses to do any copying; he refuses to do any thing; he says he prefers not to; and he refuses to quit the premises”(Melville, 1856: 24) states the narrator about Bartleby’s defiance. This refusal to follow work also causes conflict between him and the other characters as they are also irritated with him for not fulfilling what was expected, as Nippers displays by stating, “I think I should kick him out of the office”(Melville, 1856: 9). Another smaller defiance of norms that Bartleby displays is his odd behavior that was displayed by his habit of starring at the walls and statues, that the narrator comments are very much aesthetically like Bartleby. Bartleby was also seen very scarcely…show more content…
Another possible explanation for his slow demise is his inability to exert himself back into normal society after his dead letter job. Further, his demise could be accounted for by the mundanity of his job and his life as a whole. Bartleby’s reaction to his social context could have had led to an internal struggle of fitting or fighting that could have led him to depression leading to his passing. As Bartleby starts to refuse to do his job, he is making a clear comment against social norms, so conclusively Bartleby chose to fight the social context in which he abided because his inability to reenter society led to his depression. The question of if Bartleby was depressed or if he mentally crazy could come down to interpretation. But some evidence to support the claim that he may be depressed was his habit described by the narrator, “for long periods he would stand looking out, at his pale window behind the screen, upon the dead brick wall”(Melville, 1856: 14) as is generally habitual of a person with

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