Bartleby The Scrivener

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Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, The Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street” presents the titular character with a mental impairment that bears many similarities to what is known as depression. Although Bartleby appears to have this disability, it is never confirmed due to the entire view of this character being shaped solely by the perspective of an ignorant narrator. Having only encountered visible, physical disabilities before, the narrator does not know how to respond to a man with an invisible, mental one. Driven mad by Bartleby’s preferred phrase, “I would prefer not to” (Melville 8), the narrator fails to recognize this phrase as what Mitchell and Snyder’s Narrative Prosthesis could label as a subconscious cry for help, and instead tries half-hearted…show more content…
The narrator describes Bartleby’s initial work ethic as intense and nonstop, “At first Bartleby did an extraordinary quantity of writing. As if long famishing for something to copy, he seemed to gorge himself on my documents. There was no pause for digestion” (6), however, Bartleby’s gradual drop from this original hardworking demeanor showcases a characterizing symptom of depression—loss of interest in things one used to enjoy or do. Throughout the story, Bartleby’s interest and desire to do work rapidly decrease which seems evident of him slowly slipping further into a melancholic state. Bartleby’s mental state also bears resemblance to depression through his appetite and diet. The narrator discovers that the titular character only eats a few ginger-nuts a day and later, in prison, nothing. While the narrator merely finds this diet odd, this behavior is actually another indicator of Bartleby’s mental disability as a change of appetite and eating very little are also symptoms of depression ("Depression: Do You Know the Symptoms?" ). Another defining factor of depression is difficulty in making and doubting one’s decisions ("Depression: Do You Know the Symptoms?") which Bartleby constantly demonstrates. Bartleby’s main phrase “I would prefer not too” (8) and
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