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Isolation Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener Bartleby Scrivener Essays

Isolation Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener “It is dangerous to isolate oneself; dangerous for an individual and for a nation.”- Jawaharlal Nehru. The quotation says that isolating oneself can be dangerous, as in the case of Bartleby, a character in Herman Melville’s novella Bartleby. Bartleby’s isolation was dangerous; it led to his depression and his death. The motif of the story is the isolation of Bartleby from society. Three literary devices support the motif: symbolism, descriptive passages, and irony. The walls symbolize Bartleby’s isolation from society; descriptive passages convey his loneliness; irony further expounds upon the motif. Symbolism supports the motif of Bartleby being isolated from society. The symbolism is in this quotation, “Still further to a satisfactory arrangement, I procured a high green folding screen, which might entirely isolate Bartleby from my sight, though note remove him from my voice.” In this quotation, the narrator put up a screen to separate his office from Bartleby’s, isolating him from the other members of his staff and thus from humanity. The phrase, “I prefer not to,” also tells the reader about Bartleby isolating himself. The phrase shows his lack of involvement, another form of isolation. The narrator tells the reader exactly what he did to Bartleby, very vividly, as shown below. In the novella, the author tells the reader, down to the smallest detail, what he did to Bartleby to isolate him from the world. He tells us in this passage, “I placed his desk close up to a small side window in that part of the room, a window 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 a wall, and the light came down from far above between two lofty buildings, as from a very small opening in a dome. Still further to satisfactory arrangement, I procured a green folding screen, which might entirely isolate Bartleby from my sight, though, not remove him from my voice.” The quotation describes how the narrator secludes Bartleby from society. Even his window, usually a form of escape, results in Bartleby being trapped behind another wall, thus reinforcing his total isolation. The irony lies in the fact that the narrator, while trying to isolate Bartleby, becomes affected by it, so much so that he appears almost human. Instead of dismissing him on the spot for refusing to copy, proofread or leave the premises, he tries to find other employment for him, and even considers inviting him to live in his residence as his guest. The narrator develops 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 I lay up in my soul what will eventually prove a sweet morsel for my conscience.” The narrator would normally befriend Bartleby or any other “sucker,” but Bartleby has given him a conscience. The narrator has realized that a common blemish in a person does not determine the person. In the beginning of the novella, the narrator only cared about his work, but now he realizes that people have a life outside of work, except Bartleby. The narrator then 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 save Bartleby from his doing, Bartleby’s undoing, Bartleby’s isolation. In conclusion, 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 strange were looked down upon or ridiculed at (as in Freak Shows), so Bartleby isolated himself and permitted others to isolate him from society. Even though the narrator isolated Bartleby, Bartleby brought the isolation upon himself by living an abnormal life. By not fitting into mainstream society, Bartleby left himself open to isolation. The three literary elements, symbolism, descriptive passages, and irony, described how Bartleby’s isolation from society fit in the novella. Jawahrlal Nehru said that isolation is dangerous, as in Bartleby’s case. Isolation can drive a person insane, make him mute, or even kill him. The theme is not to let yourself succumb to the prejudice of others, and let yourself be isolated.

Free Essay: The Odor of Chrysanthemums

The Odor of Chrysanthemums

The locomotive engine may be symbolic of Walter. It is an overwhelming thing, strong and powerful, the way that Walter is a huge part of her life. However, it is also impersonable and cold, just as her relationship to her husband is. Her moments with her husband, like “the winding engine” are hurried “with brief pauses” (2113). Lawrence describes their intimacy as an “exchanging of nakedness,” but without any real connection for long periods of time.

The color red seems to symbolize death. The beginning of the story presents the pit bank with “flames like red sores like its ashy sides” (2111). However, death is not presented as a dreadful thing in this story. In the end, death is freedom for Elizabeth. Even John says, ” I do think its beautiful to look in the fire . . . . It’s so red, and full of little caves– and it feels so nice” (2114). In a way, he is commenting on the mystery and beauty of passing on to the afterlife. When Elizabeth goes to look for her husband, there, again, is “The red smear of the burning pit bank on the night (2117). Finally, she lays her dead husband on “the old red tablecloth” (2121).

D. H. Lawrence’s parents did not have a good marriage. They probably did not know each other well before their marriage, as they were ill-suited for each other. The Bates do not really know one another; they are married but strangers. Lawrence’s father was an abusive alcoholic. Walter Bates frequents the public house.


Elizabeth Bates: stifled, long-suffering, distant but caring with her family.

John Bates: curious, headstrong.

Walter Bates: Insensitive, absent.

“Was this what it all meant–utter, intact separateness, obscured by the heat of living?” Elizabeth is questioning the reason for living. Particularly, she is wondering at her own existence. Her life seems to have no meaning and she does not connect with any one, especially her husband.

“I have been fighting a husband who did not exist . . .and her soul died in her for fear.” Walter did exist, but not as a true husband to her, nor she a true wife to him.

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