Plot, Setting, Point of View, and Tone in Bartleby the Scrivener

1393 WordsJul 13, 20186 Pages
In the short story, "Bartleby the Scrivener," Herman Melville employs the use of plot, setting, point of view, characterization, and tone to reveal the theme. Different critics have widely varying ideas of what exactly the main theme of "Bartleby" is, but one theme that is agreed upon by numerous critics is the theme surrounding the lawyer, Bartleby, and humanity. The theme in "Bartleby the Scrivener" revolves around three main developments: Bartleby's existentialistic point of view, the lawyer's portrayal of egotism and materialism, and the humanity they both possess. The three developments present the lawyer's and Bartleby's alienation from the world into a "safe" world of their own design. The lawyer, although an active member of…show more content…
Melville's choice to employ a simple plot to reveal complex characterizations of humanity shows the author's plan to make the reader interpret the theme for himself or herself. Without a complex plot, the author must use other elements of fiction to uncover variations in the lawyer's and Bartleby's outlook on society. The walls of Bartleby conflict with the lawyer's walls, but both are designed to keep both the lawyer and Bartleby safe from the outside world. The lawyer's safe haven is where his office is: Wall Street. On Wall Street, the lawyer knows exactly what society expects of him. He is content with himself and his sense of conventionality and considers himself a representative human being. The lawyer considers Bartleby to be representative of humanity. The lawyer states, "For both I and Bartleby were sons of Adam" (Melville 143). The lawyer originally places himself and Bartleby in the same context of society. However, the lawyer seems to recognize, at the conclusion of the story, the universality of Bartleby's plight. Leon F. Seltzer indicates, "Not simply Bartleby but everybody is essentially isolated in the prison of self and can break out of it only through illusions, whose fragility constantly subjects them to destruction" (119). Bartleby's safe haven is also within the lawyer's office on Wall Street. Bartleby haunts the law office and is described as a ghost. By referring to Bartleby as an apparition, Melville

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