Wow! Now that I have read Emerson's essay, Self-reliance I put two and two together and found a comparison to Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener. The narrator, as well as the other characters, is the prime example of conformists.
"The narrator's initial self-characterization is important to the story. He is a "safe" man, one who takes few risks and tries above all to conform". I found this quote in an analysis of the story. http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/bartleby/fullsumm.html
They go through their daily routine on Wall Street. None of them seem happy. The narrator is a lawyer, but the story never mentions of him in a courtroom. That would be exciting. Instead, he spends day after day in a boring office with "windows (that) commanded an unobstructed view of a lofty brick wall". Even his employees with their strange idiosyncrasies, have developed a pattern in the office which would be very routine and monotonous. This story has a very depressing tone about it. Is it their negative attitudes? Is it that they have settled for unambitious jobs that lack room for advancement? Is it that they have conformed to a societal routine in which they've found themselves stuck? Do we find ourselves reliant on this routine? Is this why Bartleby died, because he had become so dependent on the "comfort" of his job; and when he no longer had the familiarity of his fellow employees and his employer that he could no longer live?