Walls in “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” by Melville
In the narration of the book Bartleby, the theme of walls represents the boundaries that set barricades between characters throughout the story. For example, at the lawyer’s office, a ground-glass folding door is the wall that sets apart the two rooms where the lawyer and Scriveners work. With Bartleby’s recruitment, the lawyer installs a temporal wall between his working station and Bartleby’s, using a folding screen to avoid contact between the two of them. As the narrator says, the separation in the office allows him to “avail [himself] of his services on such trivial occasions” (Melville 24). Moreover, the window next to where Bartleby is stationed is used to let people see outside. Now only a brick wall can be seen through the window. The story shows the brick wall on Bartleby’s window is “black by age end everlasting shade” (Melville 9). The narrator imagines Bartleby’s time staring at the bricks, yet it remains unclear what Bartleby thinks when he stares at the bricks.
When Bartleby is taken to prison, he is held in the courtyard, surrounded by extremely thick walls, at the prison’s center. When the lawyer visits him, the lawyer explains that he can see the eyes of the murderers and thieves locked away in their cells as he stares down at them from Bartleby’s cell. Bartleby can only see other prisoners by peeping through the cracks within the wall, whose purpose is to separate the felons from each other. Throughout the story, not only is the wall a symbol of disconnection, but it is also a type of barricade in human lives. However, the walls do not represent Herman Melville’s struggles with his writing.
Melville, Herman. Bartleby, the Scrivener a Story of Wall Street. Otbebookpublishing, 2021.