The Walls Surrounding Bartleby Walls can separate and isolate people from the world. They can be physical walls that are around a person, or they can be figurative in the sense that a person can put walls around themselves, their lives, and their feelings. Herman Melville?s short story, ?Bartleby the Scrivener,? uses walls as symbols to show how the main character Bartleby is physically and mentally isolated with a lack of communication from the world.
The setting of the story is Wall Street, which is the financial and legal hub of New York. The lawyer?s chambers seems to be lost somewhere in the depths of Wall Street because although they look out on a ?spacious skylight shaft,? the view is ?deficient in what landscape painters call ?life? (Melville 117). The other end of the chambers looks out on a ?lofty brick wall,? which means that the whole thing resembles ?a huge square cistern? (117).
Clearly, this is not a pleasant place. The walls of Wall Street symbolically show how someone who is at the center of Wall Street activities is imprisoned within it.
Wall Street seems to isolate Bartleby from the very beginning. When Bartleby first comes to work for the lawyer, he is placed in the dark corner of the cistern facing ?a window, which at present gave no view, though it, gave some light. Within three feet of the panes was a wall, and the light came down from far above, between two lofty buildings, as from a very small opening in a dome? (121). Bartleby was surrounded by the walls of Wall Street but to entirely isolate him from the world, the lawyer, ?procured a high green folding screen,? which was placed around his desk (121).
Bartleby was isolated emotionally from the world. The...