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When we first encounter Herman Melville’s short story Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street, it is hard to imagine the multitude of meanings it contains and the interpretations it inspires. However, after a thorough analysis, we see how Melville’s genius manages to offer us political, psychological, economic and other ways of reading it. This paper’s main focus will be the psychological interpretations, i.e., Bartleby as an example of mental illness. Throughout the years, this character has been diagnosed with a number of conditions – depression, anorexia, agoraphobia, schizophrenia, etc. This paper will examine the likelihood of Bartleby having these conditions by comparing Bartleby’s “symptoms” with those of each mental illness, and if it is at all possible to diagnose someone just through the view someone else gives us of them, in this case through what the narrator tells us about Bartleby. Offering an alternative interpretation to Bartleby’s “I would prefer not to”, this paper will also briefly touch upon the political interpretations of Melville’s story.
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