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How do Bartleby's physical characteristics foreshadow his final portrait

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Bartleby was employed by an elderly lawyer from Manhattan who was seeking the services of a third scrivener due to an increase in business. Bartleby’s first impression was that of a calm and industrious young man since he looked composed and wrote very impressively in the first two days. However, as days went by, things seemed to go wayward as he started behaving strangely. One day he was called upon to re-examine his own writing, but he surprisingly declined and answered with a statement that would henceforth become some kind of a trademark. When asked upon to do anything, he would say ‘I prefer not to’. Things went from bad to worse when he continued to do lesser work as each day went by; this left the other two employees doing extra work. He refused to cooperate with them as a team player, and refused to answer to his own boss whatsoever. The other three employees got uncomfortable because they had to do extra work while Bartleby just stood in his corner. After sometime, the boss expresses concern when he notices this abnormally, but instead of firing him straight away, he pities him and goes out of his way to try and help him out. Things worsened when the boss discovered that Bartleby had started living in the office. The situation got even more complicated when one day he stopped working completely. Bartleby’s case became more complicated when he opted not to give any information to anyone about his past. He did not say where he came from. In addition, he did not say whether he had any relatives, and so his boss had very limited chances of helping him out. It really baffled his boss when he did not want to work, while at the same time he did not want to leave his job willingly. The boss came up with drastic measures since the lad had become more of a luggage; he moved the office to another building leaving Bartleby behind. After his refusal to bulge, he is confined, but even when in there, he refused to eat and remains distant and by himself. He ultimately dies in the end (Melville, 1994).

Bartley’s physical characteristics seem to foretell what happened in the end. One major character is his refusal to eat; he does not dine as the other men do. He never steps outside the office to have lunch and only survives on ginger nuts brought to him by Ginger Nut. It is common knowledge that man has to survive on a well balanced diet in order to have a vibrant health. Carbohydrates generate the energy we need to move about, proteins replace worn out body tissues, while fruits and vegetables prevent diseases. We see that Bartleby tormented his body a lot; he surely lacked most, if not all of his necessities, thereby wearing down slowly by slowly. As such, his death was eminent and one could see it coming. He did not also engage himself in physical exercises which are very essential for human physique. This meant that he was weakening his body slowly by slowly.

Bartleby also isolates himself from the rest of the society. We can see this clearly when his boss discovers that the lad was literally living in the office, even during the weekends when most people like to go outdoors (Melville, 1994). This isolation made him lonely since the office was situated along the Wall Street which was normally deserted during the night and weekends.  It is therefore evident that Bartleby shut himself from the rest of the world. It is commonly said that no man is an island, and no man can stand alone. In essence, Bartleby lacked such needs as love from close relatives and friends’. He also lacked social amenities. This happened even after his boss had offered him a place in his own house. In addition, the office is obviously a place which lacks the facilities for one to live comfortably. It was untidy and dusty. Unfortunately, Bartleby could not even return the gesture of friendship which his boss extended towards him. He still remained cold and distant and hence he was doomed to fade into the world of the dead slowly.

Bartleby can also be seen to be rude. This, in effect, is seen when he refuses to do the work his boss gives him. He causes tension between himself and his co-workers (Melville, 1994). In fact, had he probably worked with an impatient boss, he would have been kicked out on the first day due to his indiscipline. Nevertheless, the current boss, out of his own pity, lets him to continue staying despite the rift between them. He expects him to change after sometime, but Bartleby acts even more strangely. A normal employee would want to please the boss and work so hard so as to get a raise in return, or better yet, improve his working conditions. Nevertheless, despite the fact that Bartleby had a sympathetic boss, sooner or later, he had to be relieved off his duties due to his behavior, and so he became homeless and unemployed. Sometimes he even opted to remain silent when he was asked a question by his boss. A perfect example is when one morning he refused to admit the boss into his own office and even went ahead to ask him to walk around the block as he was not yet through with what he was doing (Melville, 1994).

Bartleby does not motivate himself; he lacks the will to go on with life and seems disinterested with interacting with the world and its inhabitants. The boss called on him ‘to join this interesting group’ so as to revise what he had written, but he ‘prefers not to’. This shows that he does not motivate himself, and does not want to be motivated either. He does not speak to anyone unless when spoken to and would only use his answer of ‘I prefer not to’. When his boss moved his office to another building, he still remained rooted on the same spot and would not bulge. This, in essence, shows that he had lost interest in life and had decided to die. This kind of attitude would lead to his disinterest in life and had to finally die. In addition, Bartleby was a person who showed no emotions. No one ever knew whether he was angry, hungry or happy, since he always wore the same insensitive face, whether in situations when other people were making fun of him, or wanted to beat him up. He also seemed not to read other people’s emotions. This is exemplified when the boss shows that he is dissatisfied and feels uncomfortable, but he remains quiet and defiant. When Mr. Nipper lets him know that he was upset by his behavior, and even called him a stubborn mule, he does not sense the mood around or even change his behavior (Melville, 1994).

Bartleby declines any kind of help no matter how it was of great help to him. Despite the fact that his health was deteriorating, he never went to hospital for medical care, or better yet, seeks professional help from a psychiatrist. He also declines to give out information that could help him to save his life. At one time, his own boss decides to offer him a place for him to stay, under his own roof, but he would hear none of it. Instead, Bartleby chooses to sleep on the staircase and refuses all kind of jobs offered to him by his immediate employer after being relieved off his duties. The only person who seemed to be concerned with his life tried to offer all kinds of jobs to him. For instance, he was offered a choice to decide which kind of business he would like to engage in, and was also asked if he wanted to be a clerk, but he said there was too much confinement in these jobs. In addition, he was asked if he wanted a job that would allow him to travel a lot within the country and even abroad, but he said that he would prefer to be stationery (Melville, 1994). He preferred not to make any change at all. The story of Bartleby depicts a kind of man who never wanted any kind of help from anyone. Indeed, this is what made his immediate boss to be fed up despite having tried so much to help him out. As a result, Bartleby was left all alone in a state of seclusion and condemned internal torment, and his soul was especially damaged. Nevertheless, He remained defiant and wanted to maintain the status quo. There was a rumor doing the rounds that Bartleby had worked as a subordinate clerk in the Dead letter office in Washington earlier in his life. It was therefore believed that this kind of work might be the one which contributed to his current state due to the fact that he dealt with the issue of burning the letters of the deceased. In effect, this might have led him to lose interest in life and therefore regard it as useless.

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