This is in response to prompt one, but I was a little bit upset at Murray, so it’s more of a rant. Sorry, unfortunate readers! I’m usually much nicer.
I tried. I honestly tried. I read Murray’s thoughts on Melville, and I just can’t see Bartley as anything but Bartleby. Even if Melville was writing about a person who had an ASD, I think I still would have had a problem with Murray’s classification. And that’s the issue for me, I think.
We are taught in Intro to English that a character is never to be psychoanalyzed. Characters are just characters. To bring in a past work, Haddon’s novel about Christian- a boy who is known in the novel as simply a kid with some social problems, and is really good at math- shouldn’t be classified as anything other than a fictional character. I mean, Melville wrote fiction. Some argue that he is one of the best fiction writers of all time. His characters tend to sound a bit…off…at times. I don’t really know how else to put it, but I can’t imagine having a conversation with any Melville character that I’ve read about. His people tend to be more symbolic ham realistic.
By taking a symbolic character and shoving a diagnosis on his head, Murray takes everything I learned from the tale of Bartleby and turns it on its head. I probably should mention that I have read this work before, and kind of feel upset at the treatment Murray gives the piece. I’m also really having a weird week, and I feel with Bartleby a bit (I feel like I’ve been doing everything but sleep at QC. I did two 14-hour days last week. Being stuck on campus for that long really could drive someone insane). For me, Bartleby has always been something that represented the fight against establishment. The quiet voice that dissents when it’s easier to just go with the flow. He’s an idea that I sometimes like and sometimes dislike. But he is an idea. And ideas do not have neurological differences, because ideas aren’t people.
To be fair, I think that Murray has a valid interpretation of Bartleby. If he feels comfortable making a statement about a disorder, I’ll entertain the idea. So: Bartleby as an actual person. I can pretty much guarantee that this guy isn’t the strangest thing going down in that office. If we’re making here characters human, I’all go ahead and classify everyone else as well. Turkey is obviously a drunk. But why? Could it be genetic? And that shifty guy Nippers. Obviously not telling us everything. Is his constant adjustment due to ADHD, or is he simply doing something a bit shady? How about the Lawyer, though? This guy is way too nice. He goes out of his way for a squatter. Is he super-religious, as he seems to claim, or is he this way because he has low self-esteem, as an article I once read about over-givers claimed? If we’re going there, I suppose we can diagnose Bartleby as well. I am realizing that I’m being a bit unreasonable. I’ll probably feel a lot more forgiving towards Murray and his article tomorrow. It’s a valid reading, but not one I would have written about in the first chapter of a book. It seems a bit risky to put a whole diagnosis onto a single character from an old Melville story.