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Unformatted text preview: In the rising action, Melville introduces a symbol, the plaster of Paris bust of Cicero, which serves as a kind of foretaste of the mask of cool detachment which obscures Bartleby's emotions. A similar example of tactile artistry is the allusion to a "pillar of salt," which particularizes the stodgy response of the lawyer at the head of his "column of clerks." These bloodless images suggest the depersonalized atmosphere on Wall Street, which is capable of reducing at least one of its inmates to mental breakdown. The lawyer, who is given to egotism and pomposity, notes with an aphorism, "Nothing so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance" and compares his efforts to motivate Bartleby to the futile attempt of striking sparks with his knuckles "against a bit of Windsor soap." As the lawyer continues his ruminations over the quandary of what to do with Bartleby, he voices a...
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- Fall '08