"Barleby," again. I have to confess that I don't like this story. It's dark and oppressive, it leaves us with no anwers. Why does Bartleby refuse to write? Is the story a reflection of Melville's own disillusionment with wrting after when, after he published his masterpiece Moby Dick in 1851, he was ignored by the public until his death? The story is one of the most nihilisitic literary texts, nihilism being, according to the OED, " a total rejection of current religious beliefs or moral principles, often involving a general sense of despair and that life is without meaning-" Doesn't this sound familiar? This is exactly what our society is going through at the moment: we find no sense in life, many people feel they have nothing to live for, when they are being expelled from their houses for not paying their mortgages. Bartleby also lets himself die: he refuses to care about money, food or drink. Is he thus subverting the conventions of Calvinistic capitalism of the Wall Steet setting of the story? It might be worth noting that the equivalent of the 15-M Spanish movement is called "Occupy Wall Street. Bartleby stubbornely rejects any kind of authority: "I would prefer not to," an enigmatic formula: he neither refuses, nor does he accept; his phrase is intriguinly ambiguous. Many people act and speak in similar ways nowdays.
The text with its open ending puts forward doubts and different intepretations. Melville introduces a mysterious passage which provides certain biographical information about Bartleby. What do these letters have to do with Bartleby's behaviour? What is the meaning of his last words in the story (Ah Barleby! Ah humanity!) And you, what do you think about Barleby? And about the narrator-lawyer? What is your own interpretation of the story?