In many ways, Melville’s story "Bartleby the Scrivener" can be read as an allegory for the human condition. Man is fated to die, as are other animals. However, unlike other animals, man is aware of his own mortality and therefore spends time wondering about his purpose in life, his reason for even being, and pondering his ultimate death. In some ways, the character Bartleby personifies the human condition.
Bartleby is paralyzed by his ultimate fate; so paralyzed, in fact, that he stops doing anything as he awaits death. Although he begins as a diligent worker—this phase of his employment probably parallels the youthful phase of a person’s life—he quickly moves to another stage where he declines to do anything, so obsessed is he with his pending death.
In fact, all descriptions of Bartleby are suggestive of death. Melville describes Bartleby’s initial appearance.
In answer to my advertisement, a motionless young man one morning, stood upon my office threshold, the door being open,...
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