Herman Melville uses symbolism to connect his short story, "Bartleby," to his own life. Some examples of symbolism that act as parables of Melville's life as a writer are Bartleby, his refusal to copy letters, and the dead letter that Bartleby used to work with. Bartleby used to work very diligently, day and night, and was praised for his efficiency. He then stopped working because he "preferred not to." He preferred to stare out the window and think his numerous and deep, internal thoughts. Melville, as well, also worked very hard on his successful novels, winning much praise and accolade. He then started "preferring" to write novels that were more like Moby Dick, that is, novels that were more meditative and thought provoking, rather than romances. Melville knew that the romance and travel novels which everybody knew and loved were the ones that would provide income, but he would not, he felt that "altogether, write the other way, [he] cannot" (Marx, 239).
Both Melville and Bartleby wanted to move away from what was expected of them and preoccupy themselves with philosophy and thought.
The dead letters are also an example of symbolism that connects with Melville's life because in the story, the dead letters had been such a depressing job for Bartleby. Reading letters intended for dead people was not a fulfilling or satisfactory job. Because of this, the Lawyer speculates if the letters were the cause of his descent into depression. The dead letters represent Melville's failed novels because his failed books also were depressing for Melville. Many critics were hostile to his writing so he felt more and more discouraged, and headed towards short stories, a different form of writing from which he had been doing. Bartleby, also depressed by the dead letters,