some key features of bartleby the scrivener l.
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Some Key Features of “Bartleby, the Scrivener”

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Some Key Features of “Bartleby, the Scrivener”. Contexts. Literary period and historical background Romanticism (in America 1800s – 1860) Deals with bizarre, out-of-the ordinary people and events. Gothic conventions subtly employed (confinement, madness, claustrophobia)

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contexts
Contexts
  • Literary period and historical background
    • Romanticism (in America 1800s – 1860)
      • Deals with bizarre, out-of-the ordinary people and events.
    • Gothic conventions subtly employed (confinement, madness, claustrophobia)
    • Written in the midst of the Industrial Revolution in America
    • Written and published after Engels and Marx’s Communist Manifesto (1848)
    • Published in the same collection with “Benito Cereno,” which tells a story of an exploited class of people (slaves) from the obtuse perspective of a complacent Northerner blind to social injustice and his own role in it.
formal and stylistic attributes
Formal and stylistic attributes
  • Narrative point of view
    • First person, some think unreliable. Readers are confined to the narrator’s point of view.
    • The highly organized, list-like style of the stuffy, conventional, legalistic narrator.
settings
Settings
  • Setting
    • Wall Street
    • An office surrounded by dirty brick walls outside and divided by internal walls
    • Symbolic objects around and in the office
      • The blackened wall which obstructs the view from Bartleby’s window and at which Bartleby stares obsessively in a “dead-wall revery”
      • The “Dead Letter Office” from which Bartleby arrives?
      • The “Tombs,” a prison that is also called “the Halls of Justice” where Bartleby is incarcerated and dies?
characterization
Characterization
  • Characterization
    • Wall-Street lawyer who deals in “rich men’s bonds”
    • Subordinate, shabby scriveners Nippers and Turkey
    • The engimatic new scrivener, Bartleby, politely rebellious, ambiguous, and inscrutable
motifs
Motifs
  • Confinement (walls, barriers)
  • Blindness or imperfect/obstructed vision
themes
Themes
  • The treatment of people who do not fit neatly into society’s categories
  • Free will and where/by whom it can and can’t be exercised
  • Freedom, captivity, and the workplace
  • Christian vs. Capitalist values
  • The relationship of workers and employers
  • Responsibility for the poor, indigent
  • Class conflict and miscommunication
interpretive possibilities
Interpretive Possibilities
  • The story critiques dehumanizing, restrictive labor that crushes the spirit of employees who are used as tools in the production of wealth by obtuse, smug capitalists such as the narrator.
  • The story critiques the excesses of transcendental freedom, as embodied by Bartleby, and affirms the limits of such freedom by illustrating its consequences.
  • The story reveals the growing gap between poor employees increasingly confined and degraded by labor that creates superfluous wealth and the managers who use them. The story uses symbols such as “deal letters” and vision-obstructing walls to illustrate the blindness of apparently respectable men such as the narrator to their increasingly dissatisfied, spiritually and intellectually enslaved employees.
  • Other?