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

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One of the themes of the story is the way that society often finds it hard to deal with those who are different. And Bartleby certainly couldn't be more different if he tried. The whole culture of Wall St is based on a certain element of regularity. The demands of commerce dictate an adherence to a specific set of rules and commercial customs designed to facilitate the smooth operation of business.

Then along comes Bartleby who just sits there, doing nothing. Though not actively belligerent, Bartleby still represents a threat to the commercial order which relies on everyone involved fulfilling their specific function. The economic system which Bartleby refuses to serve is based on rampant individualism. Yet ironically his very individuality represents a danger to that system. Society in general, and Wall St in particular, cannot accommodate too great an expression of individuality. Eccentricities can be tolerated, even encouraged in certain cases. But there are limits, and Bartleby, in his passive act of defiance, pushes those limits as far as he possibly can.

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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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