Melville when writing Bartleby the scrivener uses imagery to evoke a sense of hopelessness and bleakness, he does this by painting a very basic repetitive image in the reader’s head. This is created straight at the beginning as he states; ‘Bartleby was one of those beings whom nothing was ascertainable’ this creates a sense of hopelessness because Bartleby is shown to be a person whom cannot obtain any knowledge. This can also be seen as bleak because if hypothetically he cannot learn then how is he able to advance in life, hence his future looks bleak. Hopelessness is again emphasized with the descriptions of the lawyers workers, ‘Turkey…but after 12 o’clock meridian-his dinner hour-it blazed like a grate full of Christmas coals; and continued blazing’ and then discussing the other scrivener ‘…and all time before twelve o’clock, meridian, was the quickest, steadiest creature, too, accomplishing a great deal of work.’ These quotations from the story evoke a sense of hopelessness because it seems that the lawyer is unable to attain a worker that is able to work well for the full day as he as one worker that only works well before 12 and another which only works well after 12.
Continuing this sense of hopelessness and bleakness, Melville explains how Bartleby did an extraordinary job ‘at first’. The use of ‘at first’ creates a sense of bleakness because the reader now knows that something will go wrong eventually and the future seems to be indeed bleak. Hopelessness is then emphasized by the lawyers description of the scriveners job, ‘It is a very dull, wearisome, and lethargic affair’. The use of the words ‘dull’ and ‘lethargic’ could potentially make the reader ask the question why? Why work in a place so boring and tedious? This evokes a sense of hopelessness as they seem stuck in this dead end job and they seem unable to escape it. Melville furthermore shows hopelessness as he begins to show the change in Bartleby’s character, ‘Bartleby in a singularly mild, firm voice, replied, “I would prefer not to.”’ In refusing to accept the task a sense of bleakness is created as this represents the beginning of Bartleby’s decline and hopelessness, as we know that he will not recover from this slump. Hopelessness is finally further emphasized in this scene as the lawyer repeats his question however Bartleby again says, ‘I would prefer not too’ hopelessness is emphasized in this situation as the lawyer persisted in asking Bartleby to do this job however he keeps refusing. This shows that the lawyer is fighting a losing battle and hence his constant questioning is hopeless.