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Melville - Use of Walls in Bartleby

This posting explains literal and metaphorical "walls" in Melville's text.

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While examining both literal and metaphorical "walls" in Melville's text, please apply these areas to guide you.

Since the story was originally subtitled, "A Story of Wall-Street," the use of walls literally and metaphorically separates the narrator, a lawyer on Wall Street, as he explains his actions, with the other workers, particularly Bartleby's isolation. Please note how the lawyer even describes himself as "an eminently safe man" and advocates that "the easiest way of life is the best" (p. 20).

Besides the use of "walls" to differentiate the characters, Melville using "walls" metaphorically to criticize the greed and injustices of Wall Street and its overemphasis on materialism and capitalism. For example, instead of finding camaraderie and kindness, Bartleby discovers "a solitary office, upstairs, of a building entirely unhallowed by humanizing domestic associations" (p. 52), a building "deficient in what the landscape painters call 'life"' (p. 21). This ...

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The use of walls within Bartleby is the prime focus.