Dead Letters

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Bartleby the Scrivener - Melville
"Sometimes from out the folded paper the pale clerk takes a ring:--the finger it was meant for, perhaps, moulders in the grave; a bank-note sent in swiftest charity:--he whom it would relieve, nor eats nor hungers anymore; pardon for those who died despairing; hope for those who died unhoping; good tidings for those who died stifled by unrelieved calamities." (last paragraph 250-251)

When I read these last lines, I felt the need to re-read them for meaning. I came to the conclusion that maybe these dead letters drove Barteby insane. He could have been so attached to this job that he withdrew from society and felt lost without it. It is but one explanation of Bartleby's actions... It just seems to me that this addition explains why Bartleby doesn't really have a vigor for life or work. 


Jessica Apitsch said:

I chose a passage right before this one which makes the statement that dead letters sound a lot like dead men. These letters came to this office because they no longer had a destination, as it was unknown. They lost all of their purpose and then their value, as they were destroyed to secure their the owner's privacy. I thought Melville chose to have the dead letter office as Bartleby's former employer as a way to give the reader a clear image on how he felt in life (with no destinantion or purpose or value). By working there it could have caused him to be stripped of this value and later drove him insane as you said. I thought another way the reader could look at this is that the author chose this as his former profession as not the direct cause of Bartleby's loss of value and insanity, but rather to give the reader a clear image of it and maybe bartleby lost his sanity somewhere else along the way. This profession allowed him to feel connected to the undeliverable mail, so when he lost this job, Bartelby felt even more alone, which is when I agree with you that he "felt lost without it".

Jessica Pierce said:

Thanks for the new insight, Jess. I never thought that Bartleby might have lost his sanity somewhere else. But he is definitely lost without it.

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