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What are the themes (or scenes) of Bartleby the Scrivener?

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ada8558 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 2, 2007 at 9:05 PM via web

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What are the themes (or scenes) of Bartleby the Scrivener?

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bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted November 3, 2007 at 2:15 AM (Answer #1)

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One of the themes is the pressure in the business world to conform to the rules of conducting business. There is no individuality on Wall Street. The scriveners copy the work of others and add nothing of their own to show their individual creativity.

The issue of freedom is also an important theme. Bartleby stares at the walls and feels imprisoned by them. Bartleby is trapped in selling his time and labor for low wages.

Another theme is the apathy and passivity of both Bartleby and the lawyer. Bartleby passively resists the lawyer's instructions and chooses to do nothing. His inaction leads to his own death and indicates his indifference to his own life. The lawyer is apathetic toward Bartleby and seems paralyzed by his inability to react or do anything.

There is also class conflict shown in the story. The lawyer lives a different life than those of the scriveners. He reveals his class prejudices through his narration, showing total insensitivity to his workers.

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