Comparing Young Goodman Brown And Bartleby The Scrivener
In the stories “Young Goodman Brown” and “Bartleby, the Scrivener”, I find myself more sympathetic to the
character Bartleby. The stories’ protagonists withdraw themselves from society, but for different reasons. Goodman Brown loses his trust in people, while Bartleby loses hope.
“Bartleby, the Scrivener”, by Herman Melville, describes a man who is all alone in the world and has lost all hope. It is a narrative story, told by a lawyer who hires Bartleby. At first, Bartleby is a very good worker. He is efficient and keeps to himself, unlike the lawyer’s other employees. After a while though, when he is asked to do something other than copying, his only response is “I would prefer not to” (Melville, par. 26). He continues to do this, until one day, he completely refuses to work altogether. The only response from the lawyer is that he feels sorry for him. The lawyer even finds out that Bartleby is living in the office. Bartleby has nowhere to go, no known family, and no friends. He just sits at his desk and looks out the window all day. The lawyer tries several times to persuade Bartleby to move out, but nothing works. He “would prefer not to”. (Melville, par. 105) The lawyer eventually moves out and leaves Bartleby behind. Bartleby is arrested by the police and taken away. The lawyer decides to visit Bartleby because he is the only person who cares about Bartleby. He wants to help, but deep down he knows that there is nothing that he can really do. "What I saw that morning persuaded me that the scrivener was the victim of innate and incurable disorder. I might give alms to his body; but his body did not pain him; it was his soul that suffered, and his soul I could not reach." (Melville, par. 95) Bartleby later goes on to kill himself. He gave up on life a long time ago, but now he finally ended it. The only insight as to what was bothering Bartleby is finding that his old job was at the Dead Letter Office. Dead letters never reach their destination and serve no real purpose, much like Bartleby after working there. “Conceive a man by nature and misfortune prone to a pallid hopelessness, can any business seem more fitted to heighten it than that of continually handling these dead letters, and assorting them for the flames?” (Melville, par. 257)
“Young Goodman Brown”, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is about a man who loses trust and love in society. He goes on a walk with a traveler who appears to be the devil and it changes him forever. Brown learns that everyone that he considered holy was really associated with the devil. He could not come to terms that the world is a combination of good and evil, so he isolated himself from society and died lonely and bitter. I am more sympathetic with Bartleby because he was mentally ill, and there was really nothing he could do about it. He was isolated by more tragic circumstances. Goodman Brown, though, had a choice to make. He could’ve accepted the fact that people were not completely good. He could have joined the rest of his town and lived happily ever after. But he chooses to seclude himself and remain stubborn.
“Young Goodman Brown” and “Bartleby, the Scrivener” are stories about people withdrawing themselves from society. Bartleby is sick mentally and gives up on the world. Goodman Brown is given a choice, but still withdraws himself from the world. This is why it is easier for me to pity Bartleby.
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