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Why Does Bartleby Refuse The Aid of The Lawyer?

In life, we humans, are constantly faced with very important, harsh and difficult decisions that we must make in order to triumph, none more honorable than when a person sacrifices their entire existence in order to stand up for equality, truth, Justice and humanity. There are only a very small number of people in this world that possess these magnificent qualities, it takes an extremely courageous individual to battle the massive, menacing, monstrosity that is globalization, colonization, world domination and modern day slavery; most people would rather conform than fight, or perhaps their ignorance keeps them oblivious to the realities of the world, or maybe to some people injustice is a small price to pay in order to acquire a minuscule piece of material satisfaction.

The most dreadful and frightening part about this whole ordeal is that the wealthy conglomerates that are in charge of these worldly possessions have no respect at all for human life; therefore causing a trickledown effect that forces the population to compete with one another in order to stay in the rat race. “Men have looked away from themselves and at things so long, that they have come to esteem the religious, learned, and civil institutions as guards of property, and they deprecate assaults on these, because they feel them to be assaults on property”(Emerson 281). Year after year, generation after generation, we have allowed ourselves to be crippled by materialism, no case more apparent than the lawyer from Bartleby, the Scrivener who provides us with a perfect example of an arrogant, corporate tyrant. Here we have a man, who firmly believes and carries himself as if he is a long time member of the upper crush of society. He is a corporate lawyer; his work consists of handling important documents such as bonds, title deeds and mortgages for his extremely wealthy friends and associates. “I am a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best” (Melville 1). I also believe it would be safe to say that this man’s upbringing may have been filled with many of the luxuries and connections that come with deriving from a wealthy family. He even goes way out of his way to glorify his affiliation with his good friend, mentor and business associate John Jacob Astor, who was one of the most wealthiest men that has ever walked the planet. The wealth that I am speaking of in Mr. Astor’s case is not the wealth of wisdom, knowledge and truth; I just meant that he had an obscene amount of money and power.

Our lawyer friend prided himself on being an influential individual; he loved to flaunt his snootiness around town, at social gathering and especially at his work place, I don’t believe there was anything he enjoyed more than making his employees feel as if they were beneath him. He treated them not as trusted employees that help him run and keep his business thriving, but he preferred to treat them as bumbling idiots that were far less sophisticated than he and would probably all die in the street from starvation if it wasn’t for his divine leadership. He treated them horribly! He refused to call any of them by their given names, he elected to call them by what he saw fit, nicknames from their behaviors, in which he always complained and bickered about. Two of his employees were grown men and deserved to be treated as such, but instead he addressed them as Turkey and Nippers. The third was just a twelve year old child, who was sent to work there by his father, in hopes for a better life for his son, he trusted the lawyer would teach his son about the law, but the lawyer had other plans. The young boy, who was called Ginger nut, was only allowed to run errands at a pay rate of one dollar a week. The lawyer felt that since the boy came from a lower class family, he was only fit to do subservient work, just like his dad. The irony, or I should rather say, despicable nature of the lawyer’s actions should come as a surprise being that he is a Master of Chancery. These men were supposed to be appointed on behalf of whomever in power, according to equity or fairness rather than according to the strict letter of the law, yet this lawyer behaves in such a disgraceful manner. “It is remarkable that among all preachers there are no moral teachers” (Thoreau 6).

Our society is constantly deceived by a system that is put in place to supposedly nurture our development, but in reality, the configuration of the system is based on corruption, deceit and treachery, with evil geniuses behind the scenes, who strategically place traps of enslavement around every corner; as we stroll through life blindly, the trap lie dormant awaiting its next victim. Who shall dare take a stand? Who shall dare engage in warfare with an adversary that is as tall as the satellites in our earthly atmosphere and as wide as all seven continents combine? Who shall dare attempt to tangle with this beastly, satanic abomination that has half of the world’s population on their knees begging for mercy and the other half conforming, scheming and manipulating their neighbors in order to please it? “I often perceive how near I had come to admitting into my mind the details of some trivial affair,-the news of the street; and I am astonished to observed how willing men are to lumber their minds with such rubbish,-to permit idle rumors and incidents of the most insignificant kind to intrude on ground which should be sacred to thought” (Thoreau 9). Our world leaders, the people who shape and mold our puny minds, our idols, in some cases our bosses, our celebrities, our politicians and whoever else that endorses wealth and materialism are in direct cohorts with the beast. Our lawyer friend is just a small piece of an enormous puzzle, his dehumanizing words, his destruction of character and confidence, his only providing one with enough to survive; these are all tools that are universally used by patrons of the beast. Can you blame conformists, in the presents of such a great opposition? “Yea though I walk through the valley on the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presents of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (PSALM 23). God is up for the challenge. The struggle between good and evil has been apparent sense the beginning of mankind. We must trust, believe and put our faith within God in order to truly withstand the onslaught of evil. There is a flicker of light in the mist of the abyss. There is a bright light at the end of the tunnel. In order to reach that divine light we must have faith in God and rely and trust in self. “I will not dissemble my hope, that each person whom I address has felt his own call to cast aside all evil customs, timidities, and limitations, and to be in his place a free and helpful man, a reformer, a benefactor, not content to slip along through the world like a footman or a spy, escaping by his nimbleness and apologies as many knocks as he can, but a brave and upright man, who must find of cut a straight road to everything excellent in the earth, and not only go honorably himself, but make it easier for all who follow him, to go with honor and benefit” (Emerson 135).

We must have hope and courage; we must learn how to differentiate between a man with a pure heart and a man who carries the soul of the beast. Graciously, some of us are able to detect and understand the wickedness of a person’s soul and thus the courageous and pure hearted man will not only refuse the aid of this person and their ungodly ways, but will go much, much further. The saint will protest this corrupt individual to expose him to the world for what he truly is.

The fourth employee that came about to work for the lawyer, was a young man by the name of Bartleby, who was fairly different from the other employee’s that worked in the office. “I can see that figure now-pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn! It was Bartleby” (Melville 5). The lawyer sensed from the very beginning that Bartleby was someone special, but the soul of the beast doesn’t allow his followers to nurture or make attempts to develop the naturally God given talents of man, they are instructed to try and break them, enslave them, manipulate circumstances to benefit him and only him, any and all talents must be only used to generate revenue for him. The lawyer not only employing his workers to work in the office as scriveners, but for those diminutive wages that he was handing out, he was also attempting to purchase their souls. “If I should sell my forenoons and afternoons to society, as most people do, I am sure that for me there would be nothing left worth living for” (Thoreau 3).

The new guy Bartleby worked very diligently, he minded his own business and didn’t bother anybody, the only problem, is that the lawyer is used to being the ringleader of the circus, that they called an office. “I should have been quite delighted with has application, had he been cheerfully industrious. But he wrote on silently, palely, mechanically” (Melville 5). There is no pleasing this very authoritarian human being, he treats people as if their his own individual, personal pets, he doesn’t care about their lives or their wellbeing, he just views them as entertainment in his world full of ridicule and servitude. Their problems is his amusement, their struggles make him feel better about himself, because in his mind, he is so far about them. Goodness forbid he aid them in any way or lend them a helping hand, he mustn’t interfere with the rats in the laboratory, the thrill is in watching the show play out; plus, why would the key contributor to the madness offer or assist with any solutions? Wouldn’t that defeat the whole purpose of the experiment? Bartleby sensed and witnessed the oppressive degradation that was going on in the office, and refused to take part in any on it. The very first time the lawyer asked or rather demanded that Bartleby participate in the examining of has work, in the presence of all of the original cast members, Bartleby respectfully declined by simply stated “ I would prefer not to” (Melville 6). The lawyer was irate, he thought, how is it that a slave can dare to refuse the will of his master? “The young man, on entering life, finds that the way to lucrative employments blocked with abuses. The ways of trade are grown selfish to the borders of theft, and supple to the borders (if not beyond the borders) of fraud” (Emerson 137). The lawyer was furious and also intrigued by Bartleby at the same time, perhaps this was his first encounter with what he thought as to be, a rebellious slave. At this point, the other employees started to form their own opinions and resentments about Bartleby, who continued to remain calm and did his usual business. “Nothing so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance” (Melville 8).

As time went on, the lawyer continued his efforts to conform Bartleby, but he preferred not to do so. The lawyer began to make up several excuses of why Bartleby behaved the way he did, he never once suspected that he himself could be the problem. Within a short period of time many events that the lawyer considered strange began to take place, he soon discovered this Bartleby was living at the office, around this same period of time, Bartleby stopped working altogether, and yet preferred not to leave the office either. The lawyer tried to offer him a more desirable job, money and several other propositions in order to sway Bartleby away from the office; it wasn’t so much that Bartleby disturbed the business of the office, it was more along the lines of damaging the image of the lawyer. These rich tycoon types pride themselves on their image, their property must be well maintained and kept up, as well as their employees, servants, slaves must be obedient, submissive and at their every beck and call. This man even at one point contemplated killing Bartleby in an attempt to rid himself of the problem. Nothing worked; every proposition and bribe was so elegantly declined, or as Bartleby himself would say “I prefer not to”.

Eventually the lawyer decided to pack up everything in his office and move to a different location, he thought by leaving Bartleby behind, the problem would be solved, but he was wrong, his conscience was disturbing him, at one point he thought that Bartleby may even be a ghost, or a figure sent from God to address the wrongs of his actions; even thought the office was vacated, Bartleby remained. The lawyer was contacted by the new residents of the office space to address the issue of the man that he had left behind, which ultimately led to Bartleby being arrested and put in jail. “Do we call this the land of the free? What is it to be free from King George and continue the slaves of King Prejudice? What is it to be born free and not live free? What is the value on any political freedom, but as it means to be moral freedom? Is it freedom to be slaves, or a freedom to be free, of which we boast? We are a nation of politicians, concerned about the outmost defenses only of freedom. It is our children’s children who may perchance to really be free” (Thoreau 10). The lawyer made efforts to appear as if he were now concerned about Bartleby’s wellbeing, but in all actuality, he was only concerned about his own self-image; he even had the nerve to visit Bartleby while he was incarcerated to appear as a kind, loving citizen worried about the safety of his beloved employee, when he tries to approach, Bartleby says “I know you, he said, without looking around,-“and I want nothing to do with you” (Melville 22). This man even had the audacity to try and convince Bartleby that this new living environment is not so bad at all, as if Bartleby was stupid. Bartleby say to the idiotic lawyer “I know where I am” (22). The lawyer paid one of the guards to monitor Bartleby, to make sure he ate, but Bartleby, the strong courageous man among men that he was, preferred not to eat. Bartleby ultimately died of starvation in that jail that occupied him. “As a merchant gladly takes money from his income to add to his capital, so is the great man very willing to lose particular powers and talents, so that he gain in the elevation of his life. The opening of the spiritual senses disposes men ever a greater sacrifices, to leave their signal talents, their best means of skill of procuring a present success, their power and their fame,- to cast things behind, in the insatiable thirst for divine communications. A purer fame, a greater power rewards the sacrifice” (Emerson 150).

It takes an astoundingly honorable man to sacrifice our most precious God given gift in order to stand up for what we believe in, as Bartleby has done, he sacrificed his one and only life. Now after this entire ordeal, is there still any question about why Bartleby refused the aid of the lawyer? Bartleby has done what only very few men have done in the entire history of the world, he stood up and protested against what he believed to be wrong, even if it meant losing his freedom, his favor of the people and even if it meant losing his life, as it did in his case. Every once in a while there is a person that comes along that refuses to conform or oblige by the ways of evil doers even if it means to gain as much as the entire world, or lose as much as their life. “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (MATTHEW 16,26). Bartleby did what he felt he had to do in order to make a stand against the corrupt nature of the lawyer and his minion. Bartleby’s actions should be a wakeup call to all of us. We mustn’t allow ourselves to conform or remain consistent, we mustn’t allow ourselves to be taken advantage of nor stand by and watch our neighbors be abused. We must stand up for our rights and fight for equality for all. I believe Emerson, Thoreau and Douglass alike would all agree that allowing yourself to remain in a poisonous situation, with no opportunity to advance or prosper is not living at all; it’s just dying a slow miserable death. We must find our own personal fulfillment, whatever that may be. We human beings are here on earth to be fruitful and multiply, to find out our purpose in life, to explore all of the wonders and beauties of the of the world, our own way, at our own pace. I also believe that Emerson, Thoreau and Douglass would have all despised the lawyer, I don’t believe that they would have saw him fit to even be an errand boy, needless to say a corporate lawyer or a Master Chancery, they all would have agreed that with people like him in control of anything whatsoever, would ultimately drive the citizens that occupy this planet, surely to our doom. He is indeed a faithful servant of the beast. We mustn’t allow people like this lawyer to exploit and solicit our special gifts for their devilish profits. “Do not ask how your bread is buttered; it will make you sick, if you do,-and the like. A man had better starve at once than lose his innocence in the process of getting his bread” (Thoreau 7). We must strive for the pursuit of our infinite knowledge, wisdom and truth everyday of our existence, not live just to serve and be fuel for a huge money hungry juggernaut that is slowly destroying our planet. Bartleby understood that, and saw fit to lay down his life rather than contribute to the madness. Oh how I envy him! We must follow the guidelines and instructions given to us by the geniuses of our past, and live to promote nature and humanity, we mustn’t let Bartleby’s and any other revolutionaries’ death be in vein. It is our duty to put this knowledge into action.