Bartleby The Scrivener by Herman Melville displays conflicts between capitalistic values of wall street and the values of Christianity that are faced by the lawyer when interacting with the newly acquired Bartleby in the workplace.
Bartleby would start off as a rigorous worker, taking no breaks and writing for hours on end as a scrivener. Although proving to be a reliable scrivener he would lack participation elsewhere, when asked to look over a paper he would simply reply by saying “I would prefer not to” and soon after saying that he would not write again. In the end of the story, the lawyer leans over the body of a passed on Bartleby and says, “Ah Bartleby! Ah, Humanity!” It is believed that the lawyer blurts out these words due to the finding of Bartleby’s previous job and the foul treatment received from humanity. In the story, a rumor is revealed about Bartleby’s past life. This rumor tells the story of where Bartleby came from before becoming a scrivener. Bartleby was rumored to have been a worker in the Dead Letter section of the post office. He would review letters that were lost in the mail, containing content in which caused Bartleby to slowly remove himself from society completely.
The lawyer is faced with the constant problem throughout the story of having to choose between the values raised with and those of business being unsympathetic and cutthroat. When dealing with Bartleby, he tries to show sympathy but overlooks the mistreatment of humanity. It is completely absurd in reality when people looked at him as a criminal due to his image or persona. Bartleby working with the Dead Letters took the ultimate toll. The letters can be viewed as another way of seeing the absurd nature of Bartleby’s life in the story, where his job was to destroy undeliverable letters so that any personal information inside would be protected. The narrators Ah Bartleby can be used as a show of pity to Bartleby. The lawyer shows great sympathy and offers to help Bartleby after making the discovery of him being homeless.
In hope of finding out more of Bartleby, the lawyer begins to reason with Bartleby asking of his personal life, however, Bartleby would reply “I would prefer not to”. The lawyer showed great concern for Bartleby when offering him to stay with him at his place, however, Bartleby would reject the offer responding with, “I re-entered, with… and my heart in my mouth”. Ah, Humanity refers to the treatment of mankind throughout the story, the lawyer is seen separating himself from the scriveners to display his hierarchy. Following the foul treatment of his work as a scrivener. Bartleby would work for long hours throughout the day, without breaks into the night using a candlelight. This caused a strain on his eyes leaving them dull and glazed. In addition, Bartleby was seen to be homeless living inside of the office, with the pay as being a scrivener he received just four cents per one hundred handwritten words.
It is believed that this saying of Ah Humanity can be the narrator’s way of showing the misunderstanding of humanity he has. Although he was perceived as harmless, Bartleby would be sent to the tombs as a vagrant, there he would be allowed to roam freely. In the story “Bartleby The Scrivener”, it can be concluded that at this point Bartleby would have completely removed the rest of what was left of himself from society. “And I want nothing to say to you”, said Bartleby when approached by the lawyer. The lawyer would continue to show pity to Bartleby even within the tombs, making sure that particular special attention would be paid to his friend Bartleby.
To conclude, Bartleby would soon perish due to starvation, the lawyer would emphasize the fact that Bartleby was once a clerk in the Dead Letter Office in Washington and had been removed due to a change in the previous administration. The lawyer continued to point out the fact that dead letters sound like dead men. I believe that the lawyer comes to his senses of humanity and how one can be treated without acknowledgment. The lawyer would begin to wonder if the job Bartleby once held were all in connection with his, a loss with humanity.
Bartleby spent a great portion of his life reading letters that never reached their destinations, often from or intended for people who passed on. The lawyer would finally realize the cause of Bartleby’s reasoning found in the rumor. Ah, Bartleby! Ah, Humanity!