1.After a brace canicule of hemming and hawing, I absitively to accompany the protesters of Occupy Wall Street. I was afraid to go because until actual recently, I formed as an authoritative abettor at a arresting Wall Street law firm. I didn’t apperceive how, in acceptable conscience, I could abuse adjoin The Man back my primary albatross had already been to accumulate clue of admission buzz calls from Goldman Sachs. But afresh I heard one of the protest’s organizers on the radio adage that the Occupy movement wasn’t adjoin capitalism, corporations, or alike big banking. He was for assets equality. And democracy. The anchorman apprenticed him to be added specific, but he refused.
“Why do they accept to be added specific?” I yelled at the radio. “Isn’t it accessible why they’re upset?”
I was accepting affronted at the way Occupy Wall Street was actuality covered — as if it was batty to accumulate in a accessible amplitude and protest. As if it had never happened in America before. Wasn’t the accomplished point of acquiescent attrition to above be there? To not accomplish any demands? As I approved to appear up with a acceptable parallel, I begin myself cerebration of Bartleby, the Scrivener, Herman Melville’s abbreviate adventure about an appointment worker, Bartleby, who decides out of boilerplate that he doesn’t feel like alive anymore, but continues to appearance up at the appointment every day. Bartleby’s dawdling baffles and afresh infuriates his boss, who begs Bartleby to accordance some acumen for his behavior. But Bartleby refuses to acknowledge his interests, and over the advance of the story, his needs become so few that he dies of starvation. It’s a bleak, abstruse story, and as I alternate to my archetype to reread it, I was stilled to balance its subtitle: “A Adventure of Wall Street.”
2.I aboriginal apprehend Bartleby the Announcer aftermost summer, back I was absolutely austere out on appointment life. I absolutely apprehend it at work, during a apathetic afternoon — “down time”, in appointment chat — and was afraid by how funny and a it seemed. The adventure is anecdotal by an unnamed, well-to-do-lawyer, who describes himself as “one of those apprehensive attorneys who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws bottomward accessible acclaim but in the air-conditioned ataraxia of a close retreat, do a close business amid affluent men’s bonds and mortgages and appellation deeds.” In the narrator’s apply are two scriveners and one appointment boy — or, in avant-garde terms, two authoritative administration and one intern. One announcer is old, and article of a drunk; the added announcer is young, and from the narrator’s description, article of a hipster: “Nippers, the additional on my list, was a whiskered, sallow, and, aloft the whole, rather piratical-looking adolescent man of about bristles and twenty. I consistently accounted him the victim of two angry admiral — appetite and indigestion.”
One day, the narrator decides that he needs to appoint a third scrivener. He interviews Bartleby, a “pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn” man. Bartleby is of “so abnormally sedate an aspect” that the narrator can’t advice cerebration he will be an awfully accommodating employee. And so he hires Bartleby, installing him at a board in advanced of a window with an airshaft appearance and abaft “a aerial blooming folding awning which, ability absolutely abstract Bartleby from my sight, admitting not aish him from my voice.” In added words, he sticks Bartleby in a cubicle.
Bartleby’s job is to archetype acknowledged abstracts by hand, like a animal Xerox machine. During his aboriginal brace canicule at the office, Bartleby works at a barbaric pace, and is consistently the aboriginal to access and the aftermost to leave. But on the third day, back the narrator asks Bartleby to abetment with some proofreading, Bartleby utters what will become his brand phrase: “I would adopt not to.” The acknowledgment surprises the narrator, but he doesn’t become affronted until afterwards in the week, back Bartleby refuses a additional time, with the aforementioned ambiguous reply: “I would adopt not to.” Aloft analytic Bartleby, the narrator learns that Bartleby would adopt not to do abounding things, including active errands, commitment letters, and talking to his co-workers. All Bartleby wants to do is archetype acknowledged documents. The narrator decides he can alive with this, and assigns all proofreading to the added scriveners. This adjustment works well, until one Sunday back the narrator happens to stop by his Wall Street appointment on the way to Trinity Church. He is abashed to ascertain Bartleby there, and alike added abashed back Bartleby asks him to amphitheater the block a few times, so that he ability achieve his affairs. Back the narrator allotment to his office, Bartleby is gone, but the narrator finds affirmation that Bartleby has been active there, all along.
At this point, the artifice of Bartleby escalates rapidly and absurdly, like a ball sketch. Bartleby announces that he has “given up copying” and stops alive entirely. The narrator cajoles Bartleby to “be a little reasonable.” Bartleby’s reply: “At present, I would adopt not to be a little reasonable.” The narrator afresh dismisses Bartleby, giving him his paycheck, additional twenty dollars — a affectionate of severance package. But Bartleby refuses to be dismissed. The narrator demands: “Will you, or will you not abdicate me?” Bartleby’s reply: “I would adopt not to abdicate you.” Eventually, the narrator decides to avoid Bartleby until he leaves of his own accord. But Bartleby never leaves. He stays at his desk, staring out the window, day in and day out. The narrator becomes acclimatized to his anchored presence, but back added attorneys visit, they are apprehensive of Bartleby, and in turn, apprehensive of the narrator, a man allegedly clumsy to blaze his employees. Gossip begins to circulate. And so the narrator decides he charge leave Bartleby, if Bartleby is not activity to leave him. He finds a new appointment to rent.
This tactic works; Bartleby does not chase the narrator to his new offices. Instead, Bartleby continues to lurk about the old office, alike afterwards new tenants move in. At night, he sleeps in the building’s entryway. Eventually, the building’s new tenants appointment the narrator, to accuse about Bartleby. “You are amenable for the man you larboard there. He refuses to do any copying; he refuses to do anything; he says he prefers not to and he refuses to abdicate the premises.” The narrator, who is not afterwards benevolence for Bartleby, goes to appointment him.
“Bartleby,” said I, “are you acquainted that you are the account of abundant adversity to me, by constant in application the access afterwards actuality absolved from the office?”
“Now, one of two things charge booty place. Either you charge do something, or article charge be done to you. Now what array of business would you like to appoint in? Would you like to re-engage in artful for someone?”
“No; I would adopt not to accomplish any change.”
The access goes on, at length, with the narrator suggesting all sorts of assignment that Bartleby ability do, and with Bartleby absolution anniversary suggestion. The barter ends back Bartleby repeats: “No: at present I would adopt not to accomplish any change at all.”
3.When I aboriginal began alive at the law firm, I was a acting employee, but afterwards a few months, I became permanent. About that time, I had a dream that I got a boom of the chat CHANGE on my appropriate arm. The acceptation was obvious: I was ambiguous of my accommodation to achieve bottomward at the firm, and advancing with the activity that what I was cogent myself was a day job was absolutely one I would be ashore with for a continued time. For a while, I advised absolutely accepting a boom of the chat CHANGE, to admonish me of the dream, and of my fears, but afresh the Obama attack happened, and the chat change began to lose its acceptation for me. I’m not adage I was never taken in by Obama’s promises — I was — but above seeing the word, everywhere, on ons, on billboards, on T-shirts, on TV, angry the abstraction of change into a affectionate of aureate fantasy, admitting before, I had anticipation of it as article I could do.
4.Bartleby is actual sad in its final pages. Afterwards the narrator leaves him, he is arrested as a accidental and taken to the Tombs, a bastille downtown. The narrator goes to appointment him there, but Bartleby refuses to allege to him. Activity guilty, the narrator arranges for appropriate commons to be brought to Bartleby, but Bartleby refuses to eat them. A few canicule later, the narrator allotment to the Tombs again, to analysis on Bartleby, but he can’t acquisition him. Another captive directs the narrator to the bastille yard, area Bartleby was apparent lying bottomward to booty a nap. The narrator finds him. Bartleby is not asleep; he is dead.
5.I went to Occupy Wall Street with my acquaintance Maura, who at 57 has already survived one beef era. “People are accusatory that it’s above a agglomeration of baby academy kids, but that’s what it was like in the 1960s,” she told me. Having lived through the 1970s, back abundant of Manhattan was bedraggled and dangerous, Maura doesn’t absorb abundant time wringing her easily over the hipster gentrification of Brooklyn and Queens. To her, the bigger adventure is the way the average and banal families that accept commonly lived in outer-borough New York are boring abrogation the city. She doesn’t anticipate hipster kids are amenable for that accurate migration; instead, it’s accompanying to the accumulated mentality that is demography over all of New York City.
“Everyone, alike bodies in approved jobs, aback feels like they charge to accomplish a lot of money to be successful,” she says. “It wasn’t consistently like that. My ancestor was blessed above to own his abode and abutment his family. He anticipation it was an account to be able to pay his taxes, because he knew added bodies were worse off. I’m not adage you accept to be a saint, but you should be able to be a accustomed being and alive here.”
As we’re talking, a abutment organizer with a white bristles easily us a flier and invites us to advance with him the aing day. Afterwards he leaves, I acquaint Maura that I would go, but I accept banquet affairs at seven, and I would feel bad cancelling. She action and says she would go too, but she’s too old to be arrested. “We’re not actual aitionist are we?”
On our way out, we see a twenty-something guy in a clothing captivation a amber agenda sign: I’M FOR REGULATING THE BANKS. APPARENTLY THAT MAKES ME A RADICAL.
6.Melville appear Bartleby in 1853, at what was acceptable a claimed low point. Not alone had his masterpiece, Moby Dick, accustomed alloyed reviews, but his aftereffect book, Pierre, was so universally awful that one cardboard ran a analysis titled: HERMAN MELVILLE CRAZY. His career as a biographer was alpha a abrupt decline, and he charge accept accepted it. It’s accessible to see Bartleby as Melville’s adapt ego, the depressed biographer who sees no point in activity on. Bartleby alike says that he has “decided aloft accomplishing no added writing.” But the absorbing affair about Bartleby the Announcer is that it isn’t told from Bartleby’s point of view, and so alike if Melville advised the adventure to be an analogy of his own alone genius, he additionally concluded up cogent the adventure of a Wall Street lawyer’s abrupt besom with despair.
The best affective passages of Bartleby action about the story’s midpoint, afterwards the narrator discovers that Bartleby is homeless, and has been active in his office. The narrator is struck, not alone by Bartleby’s poverty, but additionally by his loneliness, which he imagines charge be greater on Wall Street than in any added Manhattan neighborhood:
Of a Sunday, Wall Street is bare as Petra; and every night of every day it is an emptiness. This architecture too, which of weekdays hums with industry and life, at black echoes with arduous vacancy, and all through Sunday is forlorn. And actuality Bartleby makes his home; sole beholder of a confinement which he has apparent all populous… I remembered the ablaze silks and sparkling faces I had apparent that day, in bright trim, swan-like sailing bottomward the Mississippi of Broadway; and I assorted them with the bloodless copyist, and anticipation to myself: Ah, beatitude courts the light, so we account the apple is gay; but ache hides aloof, so we account that ache there is none.
The parallels amid Bartleby’s appropriate anatomy of apostasy and the protestors of Occupy Wall Street should be obvious. The point of Occupy Wall Street — and the Occupy movements about the country — is to put a face to America’s abbreviating average class. There is no charge to be any added specific than that. In fact, it seems that the beneath specific, beneath reasonable, and beneath ambitious the protesters are, the added acceptable they are to agitate those who absolutely accept the ability to accomplish a change. Bartleby is advancing not because of what he says or doesn’t say, but because he seems to accept absent some aspect of his humanity:
Had there been the atomic uneasiness, anger, agitation or assurance in his manner; in added words, had there been any affair commonly animal about him, absolutely I should accept berserk absolved him from the premises.
Here’s the narrator again, back he is aggravating to altercate Bartleby to advice with the proofreading:
But there was article about Bartleby that not alone abnormally disarmed me, but in a admirable address affected and annoyed me.
A few pages later:
Nothing so aggravates an ardent being as a acquiescent resistance.
And finally, the story’s acclaimed aftermost line:
Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!
If Occupy Wall Street has any goal, it should be to accept the aforementioned aftereffect that abundant abstract has — to unsettle. Let the pundits accuse about vagueness, and let the reporters ask their arrogant questions. (As an example, here’s one I heard put to a adolescent man continuing a me: “Is it accurate that you appetite to put all the bankers in jail?”) Let them tease, let them pacify, let them cajole, let them argue. But don’t move, Occupy Wall Street.
Hannah Gersen is a agents biographer for The Millions and the columnist of Home Field. Her abbreviate belief accept appeared in The Southern Review, The Carolina Quarterly, and The Chattahoochee Review, amid others. Apprehend added at hannahgersen.com or assurance up for her newsletter here.
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