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Bartleby the Scrivener A Strange Relationship

The Webster's New World Dictionary defines "folie a deux" as "A condition in which symptoms of a mental disorder, such as delusive beliefs or ideas, occur simultaneously in two individuals who share a close relationship or association." (231) In Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrivener" this concept of coinciding peculiarity, or obsession is demonstrated quite vividly throughout three different stages. The first, Bartleby's unwavering preoccupation with his employment, followed by his decision to do no work whatsoever, and finally Bartleby's determination to accomplish nothing at all, not even partaking of the basic functions required to sustain life. During each of these phases, Bartleby's actions are met with limited efforts on the part of the narrating lawyer, who endeavors to 'help' his odd employee. It is this interaction which poses the question of how much responsibility a human should have for his or her fellow man.Bartleby's focus passes through three main stages before his death, the first of which is his obsession with performing a single action to the exclusion of everything else. Initially, Bartleby works day and night, "as if famished for something to copy." (Melville paragraph 18) His goal, it seems, is to single-mindedly to accomplish as much copying as is humanly possible. The first few attempts on the part of the narrator to tell Bartleby to do something else, no matter how moderate the task, are met with the simple refusal, "I'd prefer not to." (Melville paragraph 21) The narrator reasonably chooses not to punish this insubordination because of both the quality, and the quantity of Bartleby's regular work. After a series of requests from the narrator that all end in noncompliance, Bartleby shifts his focus from the intensive copying of documents to simply doing nothing at all. This, of course, is a kind of obsession that is not acceptable in the modern work force, and can not feasibly be tolerated by the narrato...

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