Herman Melville's Bartleby Essay

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Herman Melville’s Bartleby is a deceptively complex short story that shows the misconstrued definition that society holds for charity.

Poor fellow! He means no mischief; it is plain he intends no insolence; his aspect sufficiently evinces that his eccentricities are involuntary. He is useful to me. I can get along with him… 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 (Melville, 13).

Herman Melville’s “Bartleby” is a deceptively complex short story that shows the misconstrued definition that society holds for charity. The narrator of the story, who is responsible for the above statement,
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The narrator is only willing to be charitable when the benefits outweigh the detriments, and as soon as his reputation is at stake, he immediately has thoughts of “quitting” Bartleby. The universal perception that charity is the rationale for helping others is overtly contradicted by the selfish motives that the narrator holds in the reasons for his
“charity” to Bartleby, where he is only helping the self.

Fortunately, through the entirety of the piece, it is shown that the appropriate idea of charity is not meant to be expressed through the actions of the narrator; that, in fact, the purpose of charity lies within Bartleby. Bartleby portrays a divine presence sent to deliver a startling and profound message in an attempt to free the narrator of his materialistic and selfish hold on life.

Bartleby’s peculiar character is something of which to take note in respects to his authority as a valid benefactor of charity. Contrary to the narrator, his “steadiness, his freedom from all dissipation, his incessant industry… his great stillness, his unalterableness of demeanor under all circumstances (15)” makes him authenticate. Even though Bartleby refuses to do the very assignment for which he was
hired,

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