Melville Stories

Herman Melville
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Main Ideas

Motifs

Main Ideas Motifs

In a story where materialism plays a role, food makes a good metaphor for desire and avarice. Bartleby, who prefers not to deal with these things, is ultimately killed by food, or rather, the lack of it. Bartleby's death, while symbolically caused by his withdrawal into apathy, is physically caused by his refusal to eat or rather, his preference not to eat—his preference not to engage in the avarice and greed of his materialistic world.