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Bartleby Essay
“Ah Bartleby, Ah Humanity!” This is the key to the short story by
Herman Melville “Bartleby”, because it indicates that the image of Bartleby
stands as a symbol for humanity on a universal level. This story is
appealing for its symbolism. This, in turn, functions as a commentary on
society and the working world. Bartleby is a seemingly homeless, mentally
disturbed scrivener who gives up on the prospect of living life and
alienates himself from it. Bartleby embodies many “conflicts” of humanity
such as mortality, alienation, and man’s desire for peace. With these
characteristics, the last line of this short story is very significant.

As one of the “conflicts” embodied by Bartleby, mortality plays an unusual
role. Death pervades in the story but not as the end of somebody’s life,
but as a kind of living death. The act of living is the real death for
Bartleby. Life to this strange and mysterious man seems full of meaningless
tasks and hard times that he prefers not to take apart in. As said in the
story, “…happiness courts the light, so we deem the world is gay; but
misery hides aloof, so we deem that misery there is none,” society tends to
take in the happy light and block the misery. No one realizes that Bartleby
is miserable in his own skin, even the narrator seems to un-notice his

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The only means of protection that Bartleby had against the world is to
alienate himself from it. While working as a scrivener, he began to
alienate himself from his coworkers. He cut off all communication from them
only responding to their questions and comments with “I would prefer not
to.” He did not socialize with anyone; he stayed confined in his little
corner on Wall Street, seemingly perfectly content with being alone. When
Bartleby is sent to prison, even then he separates himself from the rest of
the prisoners and workers. There in this “tomb” Bartleby dies alone,
alienated from society, and humanity.

The last conflict embodied in Bartleby, is the want of peace. Both the
narrator of this story and Bartleby demonstrated many calm reactions to
rude and disrespectful comments. Their characters were tested when Bartleby
refused to work, refused to eave the building, and even the refusal of
answering simple questions. Both men kept cool and relaxed during very
tense discussions about these topics. The narrator described the fact that
he wanted to keep the peace between them, and therefor never lashed out.

This decision of his eventually ended Bartleby in prison and dead.

Humanity is defined in the dictionary as the human race. The last
line in Melville’s story reads “Ah Bartleby! Ah Humanity!” This symbolizes
the UN happiness he felt towards the human race. He felt that it was their
fault that Bartleby was dead, and it was there fault that all Bartleby’s in
the world live and act the way they o. I believe That many people are nave
to think that the world is a never ending happy place. The world will
probably never be fully happy because although you may be able to fix the
appearance of someone’s living environment, and appearance, the wounds of
the soul are forever going to be there. “I might give (charity) to his
body, but his body did not pain him: it was his soul that suffered, and his
soul I could not reach.”