“Bartleby the Scrivener” provides almost a window to the struggle that Herman Melville faced during that time of his life and career; his works such as “Moby Dick” were loved but his shorter stories seemed not to receive the same appraise....
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Why does Deleuze want to dismantle this paternalism? Because,for him, 'what Captain Vere and the attorneydemonstrate is that there are no good fathers. There are onlymonstrous, devouring fathers, and petrified, fatherlesssons' (1997: 84). I cannot go into all of the reasonswhy Deleuze arrives at such a conclusion. The important point isthat he turns his analysis towards the problem of a coming or newcommunity that is no longer governed by the paternal function:'If humanity can be saved, and the originals[Bartleby, on the one side, and Ahab, on the other] reconciled [toa sane, legal order], it will only be through the dissolution ordecomposition of the paternal function.' Yet somehow,and in spite of everything, beyond this paternal function awaits'the fraternal relation pure and simple.'Understanding this relation explicitly as a 'societyof brothers,' Deleuze nevertheless invites'blood sisters' into this'community of celibates,' acommunity in which 'alliance replaces filiation andthe blood pact replaces consanguinity.' Blood brothersand sisters are thus drawn 'into an unlimitedbecoming':
like the scrivener Bartleby of the Herman Melville story, ..
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In his classic 'Melville's Parable ofthe Walls,' Leo Marx argues that thescrivener's fate reflects the fate of the writer inWall Street, which is to say capitalist, society. As it was toMelville the living artist, says Marx, so too is this society'indifferent to Bartleby's needs andaspirations; it demanded of him a kind of writing he prefers not todo; and, most serious of all, it has impaired his vision by forcinghim to work in the shadow of its walls' (Marx, 1979:101). Impaired even unto death! And yet Marx reduces the figure ofBartleby at this moment to one of psychological pathology,belonging to the order of 'hallucination'and 'delusion': 'Whatultimately killed this writer', he concludes,'was not the walls themselves, but the fact that heconfused the walls built by men with the wall of humanmortality.' Not unjustly, Marx makes much ofBartleby's supposed 'dead-wallreverie,' an emotional state projected onto Bartleby,it should be noted, by the attorney-narrator (Melville, 1986: 28).Bartleby's confusion of stone with finitude, arguesMarx, represents the psychosis of a madman who has reduced thelatter to the former. Thus, Bartleby is finally and quite literallyself-absorbed and suicidal because he is unable to separate out hisown subjectivity, one might say, from those larger (capitalist)forces that subject him. Had he been able to, he might haverecognized 'no impenetrable walls between the lawyerand himself' (Marx, 1979: 105). Still, despite suchmisrecognition, Bartleby remains 'a hero'for Marx because his 'annihilation is the necessaryoccasion for Everyman's perception' and a'plea that he devote himself to keeping strong bondswith the rest of mankind.'