The irony of Bartleby's death remains when the capitalist does not understand the true nature of Bartleby and what causes him to kill himself. This essay uses the formalist approach to examine the structure of the text using various critical theories to analyze Bartleby the Scrivener.
Bartleby is an abstract and this confronts his boss as the boss himself is guilty of abstract behavior, being absorbed by the cold, materialistic world of Wall Street and legal affairs. The narrator and boss is somewhat successfully converted by Bartleby and this makes Bartleby a hero because he has sacrificed himself for the sake of another man. The narrator's transformation shows in this; '"Good-bye, Bartleby; I am going - good-bye, and God some way bless you; and take that," slipping something in his hand. But it dropped upon the floor, and then, - strange to say - I tore myself from him whom I had so longed to be rid of.' (Melville 30).
The transcendental philosophy suggests that Bartleby might be a victim of the class struggle in the Marxist idealist's capitalist industrialization. The narrator and boss says that; '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 2). This capitalist boss imprisons Bartleby between a window and a green screen, as he narrates that; 'Still further to a satisfactory arrangement, I procured a high green folding screen, which might entirely isolate Bartleby from my sight, though not remove him from my voice. And thus, in a manner, privacy and society were conjoined.' (Melville 7). This alienation caused by the economic working class difference of the scrivener Bartleby exploits him and he rebels by refusing to work because he is dehumanized by this alienation. (Castle 256). The employer refuses to acknowledge that there might be a serious problem with Bartleby because he is a selfish capitalist. This is revealed in the narration; 'He is useful to me. I can get along with him. If I turn him away, the chances are he will fall in with some less indulgent employer, and then he will be rudely treated, and perhaps driven forth miserably to starve. Yes. Here I can cheaply purchase a delicious self-approval. To befriend Bartleby; to humor him in his strange wilfulness, will cost me little or nothing, while I lay up in my soul what will eventually prove a sweet morsel for my conscience.' (Melville 25). The employer thinks in terms of the work that can be derived from Bartleby. The formalist perspective's analysis suggests that Bartleby rebels when his transcendentalism cannot accommodate the Marxist philosophy.
From the formalist perspective, Bartleby's refusal to work is absurd since he is still an employee. Bartleby's absurdist ideas have influenced everyone at his office. The lawyer finds himself using the preferred word 'prefer' and so does his other two scriveners. He narrates; 'Somehow, of late I had got into the way of involuntarily using this word "prefer" upon all sorts of not exactly suitable occasions. And I trembled to think that my contact with the scrivener had already and seriously affected me in a mental way. And what further and