Bartleby the Scrivener
by Herman Melville
Bartleby the Scrivener Isolation Quotes
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Meanwhile Bartleby sat in his hermitage, oblivious to everything but his own particular business there. (32)
Bartleby is only separated from the office by a screen, yet still he manages to completely shut himself in – this demonstrates his ability to create his own isolated world.
Immediately then the thought came sweeping across me, what miserable friendlessness and loneliness are here revealed. His poverty is great, but his solitude, how horrible! Think of it. Of a Sunday, Wall Street is deserted as Petra, and every night of every day it is an emptiness. This building, too, which of weekdays hums with industry and life, at nightfall echoes with sheer vacancy, and all through Sunday is forlorn. And here Bartleby makes his home, sole spectator of a solitude which he has seen all populous – a sort of innocent and transformed Marius brooding among the ruins of Carthage! (51)
Despite the weirdness and wrongness of Bartleby's situation, the Narrator is profoundly moved by its piteousness – he assumes that Bartleby, like most other people, is affected somehow by his lack of human interaction.
The bond of common humanity now drew me irresistibly to gloom. A fraternal melancholy! For both I and Bartleby were sons of Adam. I remembered the bright silks and sparkling faces I had seen that day, in gala trim, swanlike sailing down the Mississippi of Broadway; and I contrasted them with the pallid copyist, and thought to myself, Ah, happiness courts the light, so we deem the world is gay, but misery hides aloof, so we deem that misery there is none. (52)
The Narrator sadly ponders Bartleby's isolation, and keenly observes that since happy people want to be together and miserable ones keep themselves apart, we assume that everyone is happy, which is, as he observes, a pretty faulty logic.