This story is about three character types based upon the Freudian philosophy of the Super Ego, the Id, and the Ego (Kendra Sherry 1, 2016). According to Freud, the Super Ego represents God, the Ego represents the basic instinct of Mankind, and the Id is the compromise. These are represented in the employer and the greater good, the isolated employee, and the rest of the employees. However, upon the overview of Herman Melville, the writer, it is more of an overall feeling of despair and hopelessness as a result of his own life experiences. Following is a bitter end: withdrawal from society and death in isolation.
Portrait of Bartleby: Different Ideologies
The narrator described the employer, the lawyer, as a shrewd businessman who lacked an appreciation for details. He found himself opening a business on Wall Street in legal paperwork, bonds, mortgages, and title deeds. As the years passed, his business grew, and he had hired two employees and an errand boy who didn’t get along but were well capable in their particular vocations. The business expanded again, and the lawyer found himself needing another copyist. He learned of Bartleby, who was an excellent copyist who had been fired from Washington D.C.’s Dead Letter Office.
Bartleby was hired and shaded from the other employees in the lawyer’s office. An important detail is that his desk was facing the wall next to a window, his back to the employer. For the first two days, he performed excellent copy work and met his deadlines in a timely and efficient manner. After the third day, Bartleby began politely refusing to perform specific tasks on the job. The lawyer, not knowing what else to do, kept him on the job. What work he did do was good, but as time wore on, Bartleby expressed increasing disinterest in doing any work at all. Finally, in response to his employees’ complaints, the lawyer gave him a week’s wages and gave him six days to vacate the office.
Bartleby refused to vacate the office and continued his polite refusals to do specific work items. The lawyer found that he was a homeless vagrant, but conferring with the Bible and his compassion; he still kept Bartleby on until he was arrested for loitering. He was sent to jail separated from the rest of the criminals having some freedom but preferred to stare at the wall. After a few visits, he was found dead balled up next to the wall, his back toward society, staring at the wall.
Here is the rest of the story Bartleby represents the end product of a man who had been rejected by society from the beginning. The impression is that he had been born in poverty and was not treated well growing up. He finally found his gift as a copyist, and provided excellent work until he realized that it was all for nothing and vanity; having no promotion or raise, and barely having an existence at all. While at his previous employment, he began to passively verbalize and reject doing the work he was required to do (Kendra Sherry 3, 2015). He was eventually fired. The lawyer is representative at one point of the Id, or the compromise between the Superego, the character of God; and the Ego, the base instinctual character of Man. In an attempt to reach out to Bartleby, it was too late. Society (Ego), had determined that he was hopeless. Another part of the ego, the self, Bartleby agreed (also Id), and gave in to the apparent appeals of society, even to the point that not even God could reach him (Superego of the lawyer). He died in self-imposed isolation in the same way he had been forced to view life: his back turned against society staring at a wall (Kendra Sherry 2, 2016).
Kendra Sherry 1. Sept 5, 2016. “What are the Id, the Ego, and the Superego?” https://www.verywell.com/the-id-ego-and-superego-2795951
Kendra Sherry 2. July 9, 2015. “What is Passive Aggressive Behavior?” https://www.verywell.com/what-is-passive-aggressive-behavior-2795481
Kendra Sherry 3. June 23, 2016. “Intimacy vs. Isolation – Stages of Psychosocial Development” https://www.verywell.com/intimacy-versus-isolation-2795739