"Bartleby the Scrivener" by Herman Melville is subject to a number of interpretations. The obscure plot, written simply yet intricately, gives insight on humanity from a different perspective. The interactions between the narrator and Bartleby show how people can lose fulfillment from life by getting stuck in a routine, but also demonstrates that routine is not permenant.
This short story by Melville compares to several other literary works on both the basis of theme and of character. In "Dubliners" by James Joyce, the author writes allegorically about the people of Dublin and how they have let themselves become subject of routine; therefore, they lose their senses of self and just continue to do what they have always done. Following a similar pattern, the characters in the "Bartleby the Scrivener," other than Bartleby himself, have also become the victims of routine. Society expects everyone to go to work everyday to a meaningless job whether they want to do something else or not. Bartleby defies this belief by refusing to do what is asked of him. Rather than going along with the routine everyone else has become accustomed to, he casually replies, "I would prefer not to." The phrasing is simple, yet effective. By making this statement repeatedly and continuing with his actions of refusal, Bartleby rebels against societal beliefs and is looked down on.
Rebellion against the "ideals" of humanity is a common theme in literature. Though the protagonists are commonly scorned for their behavior, one can argue that is society who should be scorned rather than the character acting out. According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Who so be a man must be a nonconformist." It is evident that Bartleby relates to Emerson's line of thinking by defying society and completing his final act of freedom, dying at his own will.