What Do I Read Next?
Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "The Celestial Railroad" (1843) is a nineteenth-century retelling of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Hawthorne parodies Americans' self-confident belief in progress without moral consequences. Hawthorne's work had a significant influence on Herman Melville and dealt with many similar themes.
Melville's 1855 story "The Paradise of Bachelors and The Tartarus of Maids" takes another look at the social effects of capitalism, emphasizing shifting gender roles. Melville's repulsion toward the New England paper factories is explicit, and his descriptions of dehumanized factory workers can be compared to his descriptions of Bartleby.
Tom Wolfe's 1987 novel Bonfire of the Vanities concerns greed and moral corruption on Wall Street in the prosperous 1980s. In recounting the protagonist's downfall, Wolfe examines the class structure and justice system of New York City.
Melville's 1857 novel The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade explores the psychological and philosophical aspects of human relations in a heterogeneous, capitalist society. Like "Bartleby," this highly experimental work presents numerous difficulties to the reader but remains a powerful meditation on American society in the 1850s.
Karen Halttunen's historical study Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle-Class Culture in America, 1830-1870, examines the fears of middle-class Americans about the dangers of a capitalist society. Using Melville's "Confidence-Man" as her central model, Halttunen shows how American attitudes toward honesty and deception have changed over time. See especially her chapter "The Confidence-Man in Corporate America" for an interpretation of American business culture.
David Riesman, Nathan Glazer, and Reuel Denny's The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character (1950) is a sociological study of the complex relationship between economics and personality development. This work traces the "dominant personality types" that have corresponded to the three major phases of American economic history. The issue of...
(The entire section is 453 words.)