Dead Letters.

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"Dead letters! does it not sound like dead men? conceive a man by nature and misfortune prone to a pallid hopelessness, can any business seem more fitted to heighten it than that of continually handling these dead letters and assorting them for the flames? For the cart that are annually burned. 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 any more; pardon for those who died despairing; hope for those who died unhoping; good tidings for those who died stifled by unrelieved calamities. On errands of life, these letters speed to death." (242-250)

Throughout the story I felt so sad for Bartleby then I just felt irritated by the "I prefer not," and his refusal to leave. Melville's depiction of Bartleby is incredibly depressing, and the final paragraph gives some kind of an explanation of why. Just imagining your job to be handling letter after letter of death, such a sad job. That explains the constant sadness he feels but why is he constantly preferring not to do things, and why does he stand still for hours?

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Jennifer Prex said:

Well, if that is why he so sad all the time, it's possible that may also be why he keeps saying "I prefer not." If this has such a hold over him, he may be inclined to get away from it. He apparently doesn't feel he can leave the place, so this may be his only way to do so.

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Jennifer Prex on Dead Letters.: Well, if that is why he so sad