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"Dry Cistern" On Bartleby The Scriven

2016 words - 9 pages

"The Dry Cistern" From 1870 to 1900, the United States became the world's foremost industrial nation. Overall, the nation experienced a stunning explosion in the scale of industry and in the pace of production. By the turn of the century, industrialization had transformed commerce, business organization, the environment, the workplace, the home, and everyday life. Herman Melville depicts the mechanization, dehumanization, and repetition of employment in Industrial America in his short story, "Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street." The personality of the characters, the description of the type of labor performed, and the use of walls within the setting display the removal of ...view middle of the document...

In the morning Turkey sported "a fine florid hue" until after dinner when he "blazed like a grate full of Christmas coals." However, both Turkey and Nippers carried on with "regularity and undiminished glory." They were isolated from the boss and from Bartleby. The two men completed each other; one dressed well, the other did not, when one was "on" the other was "off." Neither could be deemed a man, but rather, half of a man; without one another, they would not have been able to function. Neither man was fully or completely involved in his job. Conversely, there was the isolated Bartleby.At first Bartleby did "an extraordinary quantity of writing… he ran a day and night line, copying by sun-light and by candle-light… he wrote on silently, palely, mechanically." The narrator was very content with his perfunctory work ethic. The narrator referred to him as a mule rather than an employee. For example, he said, "…Surely you do not mean to persist in that mulish vagary?" However, isn't the work that the narrator expected of Bartleby mulish? Eventually, Bartleby burned out, much like the candle he worked by at night. No human can forgo outside contact and still manage to grasp sanity. Bartleby was different in other ways also; he expressed his preferences rather than assumptions and refusals. The boss described himself as "a man of assumptions." Turkey and Nippers blatantly refused to work during their "off" hours. Bartleby's polar different reply, "I would prefer not to," and outlook on work was a curveball that the narrator was not prepared for. This line was repeated monotonously, as a mirror to the work that was performed in the office. The line affected the narrator like the work performed affected the employees: it drove him crazy. "I would prefer not to," stirred anger and discontent because the narrator could not reach its meaning. It was not a fulfilling reason.Melville illustrated the increasing hopelessness and futility of individuality in the workplace though vivid imagery. "My chambers were upstairs at No. ____ Wall Street," gave the story ambiguity: this could have taken place in any or every office on Wall Street. The narrator meticulously described the setting of his office: At one end they looked upon the white wall of the interior of a spacious skylight shaft, penetrating the building from top to bottom. This view might have been considered rather tame than otherwise, deficient in what landscape painters call "life."… In that direction my windows commanded an unobstructed view of a lofty brick wall, black by age and everlasting shade; which wall required no spy-glass to bring out its lurking beauties, but for the benefit of all near-sighted specters, was pushed up to within ten feet of my window panes... Owing to the great height of the surrounding buildings, and my chambers being on the second floor, the interval between this wall and mine not a little resembled a huge square cistern.The narrator...

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