Essay: Bartleby and Akaky: A Struggle

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[. . .] The great point was, not whether I had assumed that he would quit me, but whether he would prefer so to do." (Melville 34). The narrator realizes that his assumption on Bartley may have been wrong, but fails to recognize how the class-based assumptions about his clerk work discriminatorily in regard to social classism. In The Overcoat, the narrator's attitude toward Akaky is rather paradoxical. The narrator looks at Akaky through the society's lens those around him. The narrator seems to give prominence to Akaky as well as his predicament thereby instilling sympathy in the readers mind. The tone of the narration varies throughout the story at times condescending, compassionate, funny and scary. A good example is when Akaky shouts "leave me alone! Why do you insult me?" (Gogol 591), the narrator assumes a sympathetic tone showing how this affects one of his co-workers. The narrators tonal variation is guided by the lens of classism he points at Akaky, one which the characters around him consumed by life's the absurdities, also sees him through, for example, why was Akaky invited to the party, because of his new coat? It appears the coat; funny enough had elevated him to a new social status.

As mentioned briefly in the introductory paragraph, both Bartleby and Akaky are reflections of the changes and challenges their respective society were confronted with. The Wall Street mentioned in Melville's story was not a global financial center it is today, in the mid-19th century, Wall Street was the hot bed of labor activism. In addition, New York was experiencing paternalistic capitalism, the early stage of capitalism, where those who were considered bosses replaced the feudal lords thereby taking charge their subordinates. New York was undergoing political and industrial changes characterized by heated political debates about the rights of the workers and growing labor movements. The characterization of the story is a true depiction of what was transpiring in New York at the time. The main character Bartleby is synonymous to the plight of most of the workers in this period. There was fierce struggle between the emerging working class and the upper class who considered themselves British descendants or Anglophiles. In the story, the lawyer is seen describing his workers, "Nevertheless, as he was in many ways a most valuable person to me, and all the time before twelve o'clock…." (Melville 979) and & #8230;Turkey, was a very useful man to me (Melville 980). One would think these people are machines not human beings and are expected to be at top working condition all day. Today, this would be considered as derogatory one which would elicit heated response especially from human rights activists. In the case of Gogol, the story The Overcoat was set in St. Petersburg. During the period of 19th century, the city of St. Petersburg was moving fast towards industrialization just like the other big cities in Europe and the United States, this brought with it capitalism. As seen in the characters attitude and demeanor in the story, regardless of the industrialization of St. Petersburg and the implementation of modern bureaucratic system, Russians not were ready to change their traditional class structure. In Gogol's story, the author uses the main character, Akaky to examines all the attitudes of the other characters, and they seem to reflect this rigidity to change, a good example is "the person of consequence," (Gogol 605) the incompetent and indifferent police officers who are engulfed in a backward feudalistic mindset.

In conclusion, both Bartleby and Akaky belong to an emerging working class in both their respective societies, characterized by transitional challenges reflected in the two stories. In both the stories, the narrators seem to play a pivotal role examining the main characters in relation to their environment as well as other characters. The narrators in some cases assume first person narration as seen in Melville's Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-street. The narrators even go as far as defining their relationship with the characters thereby revealing attitudes towards their subjects. This, as already seen in both cases is vital as it represents a historical perspective of the stories. The stories are historical evidence of the changes and challenges both the societies underwent during the nineteenth century.

Work Cited

Gogol, Nikolai. The Overcoat . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985 .

Melville, Herman.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Bartleby and Akaky: A Struggle.  (2012, October 27).  Retrieved July 24, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/bartleby-akaky-struggle/6042091

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"Bartleby and Akaky: A Struggle."  Essaytown.com.  October 27, 2012.  Accessed July 24, 2019.
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