Analysis of “The Raven” and “Bartleby, the Scrivener”
One of the antecedents of disagreement or conflict among people in society is the lack of effective communication. The latter results from the inability of those involved in a communication process to interpret or understand the speaker’s intended message. Besides, disagreement could rise from a communication process when the language used is complex or cannot be understood by either party in the process. The texts “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe and “Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville provide scenarios where ineffective communication can jeopardize the communication process in its entirety and also have adverse consequences on those taking part in the process. In this essay, the two texts are compared with a focus on motivations, consequences of reactions in each, and the suggestions they give regarding real-life communication.
Motivations of the speaker and the narrator
In the texts, the speaker and the narrator are seen to interact with other characters whose responses are the same despite the change of the context or the topic of what is being said. In “The Raven,” the speaker motivates the raven in various ways. First, the speaker motivates the raven by welcoming and asking it to tell its name. In this case, the speaker was trying to motivate the raven as he believed that it had good news, and thus, was trying to get the news from it. However, the speaker does not succeed as the raven gives a similar response of “Nevermore” to every question and demand of the speaker. Second, the speaker motivates the raven by pulling a chair and sitting directly in front of it. The speaker does this with the intention of learning more about the raven and the reason for its visit (Poe 25-27). However, again, he does not succeed as the raven gives the same response to whatever is asked.
Conversely, in the “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” the narrator motivates Bartleby, who is the other character in various ways. Bartleby’s first “I would prefer not to” response sees the narrator make several attempts to reason with Bartleby and to learn something about him (Melville 18). These efforts are seen to motivate Bartleby although they do not help stop his annoying response. Besides, after leaving Bartleby in the office, the narrator returns to find that he has been forcibly removed and imprisoned in the Tombs and decides to visit him. The fact that the narrator returns to see how Bartleby is faring and that he decides to visit him in the Tombs can be considered ways through which the narrator motivates Bartleby. Moreover, during his visit to the Tombs, the narrator finds that Bartleby is glummer than usual, and decides to bribe a turnkey, who would make sure that Bartleby gets enough food for his survival (Melville 76). Despite being a way of motivating Bartleby, the narrator’s efforts do not bear fruits as Bartleby’s “I would prefer not to” response remains, and leads to his death later on. The narrator motivates Bartleby by giving him more time to recover from eyestrain upon his refusal to work on documents given to him.
Consequences of the speaker and narrator’s reactions to the raven and Bartleby
As the case of “The Raven,” Bartleby’s same response to every question and different situations triggers various reactions from the narrator. The difference is that the raven’s response triggers negative reactions from the speaker whereas Bartleby’s response triggers both positive and negative reactions from the speaker. In the “The Bartleby, the Scrivener” text, in the beginning, when Bartleby “prefers not to” complete a document given by the narrator, the latter opts to reassign the document to another employee. However, his reaction, as the case of speaker’s reaction in “The Raven” does not change or influence Bartleby to change his “I would prefer not to” response. Upon Bartleby’s refusal to leave the office after being fired, the narrator reacts by moving into another office, thereby leaving Bartleby behind. The narrator’s reaction of moving to another office is consequential as it is one of the root causes of Bartleby’s death in the end.
What the texts suggest about the nature of language, communication, and sympathy
The two texts give suggestions about the nature of language, communication, and sympathy. “The Raven” text, by highlighting the problems faced by the speaker when he does not understand what the raven means by the repetitive response of “Nevermore,” gives the suggestion that the nature of the language used by people during communication can result in either agreement or disagreement among them. Put simply, language that is clear and positive often results in an agreement between two persons involved in a communication process. On the contrary, language that is negative and cannot be interpreted easily jeopardizes the communication process as seen in the situation of the speaker and the raven. In “The Raven,” the bird’s same response is not understood or interpreted by the speaker, and this causes trouble as the speaker abuses and insults the raven commanding it to return to its place of origin. The influence of the nature of language on the communication process is also evident in the “Bartleby, the Scrivener” text. His employer and his colleagues cannot understand the language used by Bartleby. The nature of the language used by Bartleby at the workplace results in conflict between him and his employer as well as other employees at the law office. The fact that Bartleby’s language could not be understood or interpreted by those around him was the primary cause of his death.
Moreover, the texts give a suggestion of the importance of communication among people in society. Without effective communication, coexistence or cooperation of people could be jeopardized as seen in the two texts. In “The Raven” text, the communication between the raven and the speaker is compromised, and this is because the latter does not comprehend what the former means or intends to say through the repetitive response of “Nevermore.” As a result, trouble erupts prompting the speaker to command the raven to return to its place of origin (Poe 1). The need for effective communication is also highlighted in “Bartleby, the Scrivener” where the latter jeopardize the cooperation between Bartleby and his employer’s inability to comprehend the former’s message in the response “I would prefer not to” (Melville 26). At some point, the narrator decided to give Bartleby time to recover from eyestrain although this was not a problem faced by Bartleby. The latter’s refusal and inability to communicate effectively prompted the narrator to shift to a new office, leaving Bartleby in problems with other tenants. The texts’ suggestion about sympathy cannot be ignored. “Bartleby, the Scrivener” text postulates that sympathy helps enhance the relationship between two individuals. The narrator’s sympathy prompted him to order a turnkey to make sure that Bartleby got enough food despite the weak relationship that existed between them.
Melville, Herman. “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” In Tales, Poems, and Other Writings. Ed. John Bryant. New York: Modern Library, 2001. 65-98. Print.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “Annabel Lee.” PoetryFoundation.org. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. January 24, 2016.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Raven.” PoetryFoundation.org. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. January 24, 2016.