Historical Context in Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street
Wall Street: Melville foregrounds the importance of the story’s setting in its extended title: “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street.” As the epicenter of the American financial market, Manhattan’s Wall Street is a location with political, economic and philosophical significance. At the time of Melville’s writing of “Bartleby” in the mid-19th century, the American economy was rapidly expanding in step with the industrial revolution and the efforts of such tycoons and bankers as J.D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, and John Jacob Astor, named in the story as a former client of the narrator. Wall Street came to be seen by many as an endeavor in greed, an opinion popularly held to this day. Melville touched on the theme of greed through the character of Bartleby, who willfully starves himself, to the puzzlement of the lawyers and businessmen around him. Melville never reveals whether Bartleby is a consciously moral figure or a chilling embodiment of the human realities against which Wall Street strives.
Historical Context Examples in Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street:
Bartleby, the Scrivener🔒
"John Jacob Astor; a name which, I admit, I love to repeat,..." See in text (Bartleby, the Scrivener)
"glass folding-doors divided my premises into two parts, one of which was occupied by my scriveners, the other by myself...." See in text (Bartleby, the Scrivener)
"It was the circumstance of being alone in a solitary office, up stairs, of a building entirely unhallowed by humanizing domestic associations..." See in text (Bartleby, the Scrivener)