Herman Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener
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The American dream! What is the American dream? Who lives and considers their life the American dream? Does Bartleby live the American dream? What makes this story have anything to do with the American dream? Well in the next few pages I am going to try to relate my idea of the American dream to this story.
The American dream to me is quite simple, happiness living in America. To strive for happiness you need some other tools, just face it happiness isn’t everything. Money is a big tool to happiness. “Anybody that tells you that money is the root of all evil, doesn’t fucking have any. They say money cant buy you happiness look at the fucking smile on my face, ear to ear baby.”-Boiler Room. The American dream is in one mans eyes to have a nice house, nice car, fun toys, a great family, and dignity. That is the ideal American dream. But that nice house, nice car, and fun toys aren’t going to just appear on a piece of land for you with out money. Working hard for you money, who really wants to work hard for a living? Everyone is out doing what ever they can to make good money with less work. Ever receive those emails or phones that guarantee you to make millions of dollars from home, and have all the free time you want? Well that is the dream of the American dream. The American dream to me is being able to maintain a nice home, with a great family, with more free time on my hands that time spent at an office. With a nice chunk of change in my pocket. But hey that’s why they call it the “American Dream” it’s only a dream and only the lucky ones will live such a dream. But not so much are they lucky, but smart and figured something out before everyone else figured it out.
Ill do a quick sum up of Bartleby the Scrivener. It’s about a lawyer who helps out wealthy people mortgages, titles deeds, and of the such. He has two scriveners, Nippers, and Turkey, these are just their nicknames. He hires a man named Bartleby, who just replied to add that was put out. Then Bartleby is asked to proofread a document, and replies with “I’d prefer not to” Its of course irritates him and the rest of the people in the office.
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Herman Melville Bartleby Scrivener Ideal American Boiler Room Mortgages Deeds Titles
Then after that it seems that Bartleby starts to take on less and less responsibility in the office. Then lawyer visits the office on a weekend day, and finds that Bartleby has been living there all this time, because Bartleby is a very lonely man. At night and on Sundays that Wall Street is just like a ghost town, no one is trading no one is spending. Bartleby gets to the point where he is no longer performing any duties around the office; it just went from some to none. The lawyer cannot get Bartleby to do anything or leave. Bartleby has some sort of strange control over his boss. So in attempt of getting rid of Bartleby he moves his office to a new location. But soon after the move, the new owners of the building come to the lawyer for help. They cannot get Bartleby out of the office. The lawyer comes to reason with Bartleby, and Bartleby refuses to see him, in fear of being bothered by anti-Bartleby folks. Then Bartleby gets thrown in jail. The lawyer’s bribes the turnkey to make sure that Bartleby is well fed. Bartleby dies because he would rather not eat. Later the lawyer finds out that the reason for Bartleby’s dark gloom was that he was a dead letter writer.
The lawyer is the one that I believe is living the “American Dream” the most out of everyone. He has his own establishment, a group of people underneath him working. What he really has to do is just collect, while the scriveners do the work for him. Of course he checks on stuff does some proofreading. He probably has the freest time compared to any one else that is working for him. But in the same sense he also has the most to worry about. Being that it is his establishment, he has to worry that what his people are doing is right, and they aren’t just half-ass doing things, being honest to him. People that are working for him could easily screw him. He has four people working under him, Bartleby, Turkey, Nippers, and Ginger Nut. Ginger Nut is just a little boy, which runs the errands around the place, and cleans, does the little nothings that someone has to do. He gets his nickname Ginger Nut from the cakes that he brings into the men. Nippers that suffers from indigestion, but is very irritable in the mornings and is very calm after lunch. Turkey who is a drunk, but does not start that after lunch.
Bartleby to me is living the furthest from the American Dream; he is living in the office for Christ sake. But also in the same sense he is living the American dream. He is at work all day getting paid he starts off the job doing much work. Slowly he starts to deny the work but he doesn’t exactly deny the work, if he were to do that he would not be working there. He uses “I’d prefer not to” which puts his boss in a odd predicament, because he isn’t saying NO I am not going to do that, he is just saying id rather not. So his boss is letting him get away with that, I am sure that if the boss were to be a little more tough on the subject he could be like no your going to do this, and Bartleby would do it. The boss is all funny eyed by the answer he gets from Bartleby, when he gets that answer, the boss doesn’t know how to react to this, and he even tries with other methods to get him to do work. But finally it gets to the point that Bartleby is just in the office all the time they can't get rid of him, and he is not doing any work. So in some sort of sense that is living the American dream. Getting paid to do absolutely nothing.
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From Nazi Austria to late capitalist Florida, a list of the shit we list
I. Excerpt from Alien’s My Sheeyit manifesto:
This is the fuckin’ American dream. This is my fuckin’ dream, y’all!
All this sheeyit! Look at my sheeyit! I got … I got SHORTS! Every fuckin’ color.
I got designer T-shirts!
I got gold bullets. Motherfuckin’ VAMpires. I got Scarface. On repeat. SCARFACE ON REPEAT. Constant, y’all!
I got Escape! Calvin Klein Escape! Mix it up with Calvin Klein Be. Smell nice? I SMELL NICE!
That ain’t a fuckin’ bed; that’s a fuckin’ art piece. My fuckin’ spaceship! U.S.S. Enterprise on this shit. I go to different planets on this motherfucker! Me and my fuckin’ Franklins here, we take off. TAKE OFF!
Look at my shit. Look at my shit! I got my blue Kool-Aid.
I got my fuckin’ NUN-CHUCKS.
Seconds later, Candy and Brit shove two guns into Alien’s mouth. He blows them. Tables are turned, the girls are in control. But more importantly, flipping the prep school rich kid stereotype, so often employed in film to illustrate teenage malaise these Florida spring breakers are not virgins who can’t drive. They are everything Sarah Michelle Geller’s Kathryn wished she could be. “God forbid I exude confidence and enjoy sex! Do you think I relish the fact that I have to act like Mary Sunshine 24/7 so I can be considered a lady? I’m the Marcia-fucking-Brady of the Upper East Side, and sometimes I want to kill myself.”
II. About that Starter Mansion Life:
Halfway through the 2012 documentary, The Queen of Versailles, about Florida billionaire timeshare mogul, David Siegal, and his wife Jackie, and their eight kids, and 19 staff, and caboodle of white fluffy dogs, Jackie returns home to Binghamton, New York to visit family and childhood friends. Reflecting on the Siegal family’s flashy and devastatingly gaudy life, one old neighbor comments “Well the American dream is raising way up above what you started with, and achieving something way beyond what anyone would dream that you would achieve.” And as one of Jackie’s high school friends adds, “Typical middle class America was not going to make her happy.” Happy is an especially off-putting word when describing the mood in the Siegal family – the documentary’s entire tone is mournful. A garage of unused bicycles, a Filipino nanny who hasn’t seen her own kids in 19 years and who lives in what was originally one of the children’s backyard playhouses, and a dead lizard lying limp in its aquarium, starved to death. A house of stuff that teems with neglect.
Later, the crew films the Siegals at Christmas ripping open presents. Jackie’s given David two board games – Risk and Monopoly – both regifts.
III. Ben Affleck as Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street in Boiler Room:
Anybody who says money is the root of all evil doesn’t fucking have any. They say money can’t buy happiness? Look at the fucking smile on my face. Ear to ear, baby. You want details? Fine. I drive a Ferrari, 355 Cabriolet. What’s up? I have a ridiculous house in the South Fork. I have every toy you could possibly imagine. And best of all kids, I am liquid.
IV. $587,412.97 over 2 years AKA Buzz Bissinger’s Gucci addiction:
“I own eighty-one leather jackets, seventyfive pairs of boots, forty-one pairs of leather pants, thirty-two pairs of haute couture jeans, ten evening jackets, and 115 pairs of leather gloves. (…) As a stranger said after admiring my look in a Gucci burgundy jacquard velvet jacket and a Burberry black patent leather trench, ‘You don’t give a fuck.’”
Later, he goes on to catalog the brands he owns in alphabetical order. The list reads like a nursery rhyme for Ri¢hie Ri¢h had it starred Harry and Peter Brant instead of Macaulay Culkin.
V. Speaking of nursery rhymes, sorry childhood. Maria’s My Favorite Sheeyit:
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things
Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things
Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things
VI. SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!!!!!!!!!
I will not rest until I have you holding a Coke, wearing your own shoe, playing a Sega game featuring you, while singing your own song in a new commercial, starring you, broadcast during the Superbowl, in a game that you are winning, and I will not sleep until that happens.
– Jerry McGuire
VII. Pain & Gain & Gatsby & The Green Light
a) Known for his slow motion, low angle, 360 degree hero shots, Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain promises Mark Wahlberg and The Rock as 1990s Miami (Florida, again) personal trainers, and that their American Dream “IS BIGGER THAN YOURS.”
b) Known for his hyper-romantic and hyperbolic style, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsbypromises a scintillatingly void adaptation of Fitzgerald’s American Dream metaphor; The Green Light, likely not so “minute and faraway.”