In both “Bartleby, The Scrivener” and “The Son’s Veto,” a great deal of the dramatic tension is drawn from the rigid social class system that defined the period in which both these stories were written.
In “Bartleby, The Scrivener,” a narrating lawyer becomes perplexed when a freshly hired copyist, Bartleby, refuses to do anything that is asked of him. Bartleby is surrounded by a dark melancholy that could represent the plight of the proletariat in the time surrounding the industrial revolution. The narrator is unable to understand Bartleby’s depression to the point of obsession. He is so far separated from his workers that Bartleby’s actions seem unwarranted and alien.
“The Son’s Veto” seems to make the point that caste systems steal from people their own humanity. A young maid named Sophy refuses a poor suitor in favor of a local aristocrat. She is married to him for some time and has a son named Randolf with this man. Her rich husband dies and she begins conversing with her former suitor but is unable to marry because Randolf does not approve her marrying a commoner. Sophy deeply wanted to be remarried, to quit the city and her loneliness. Randolf could not grant his mother the happiness she desired because of his pride as a gentleman. The story suggests that Sophy may not have had to dies alone in misery had Randolf cared more about her than his title.
Both of these stories comment on the deplorable caste system of the nineteenth century. They paint pictures of a world where social class makes not only the poor miserable, but also the wealthy. Perhaps these stories call for a more egalitarian society.