Although someone with the title of "lawyer- wouldn't normally be called a slave, the lawyer in Herman Melville's, Bartleby, is deserving of the label. Despite not ever experiencing being whipped for inadequate performance in the field, as was the case for most slaves, the lawyer is still a slave in that he is at the beck and call of someone else. What is strange about the relationship between the lawyer and Bartleby, his "master-, is that the lawyer is Bartleby's employer. This seemingly backwards and unrealistic situation actually helps to illustrate the idea that slavery is not always limited to areas such as position, rank, race, or color but, instead, unlike its meaning, the word itself contains no discrimination; anyone in any position can be a slave, and not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, or spiritually as well.
Initially, Bartleby was a very diligent worker, as he "ran a day and night line, copying by sunlight and by candlelight- (9). However, Bartleby wasn't actually ordered to do any of the work, instead we are told it was as if he was "long famishing for something to copy- (9). When actually asked to do something, Bartleby would always reply with "I would prefer not to-, leaving his own tasks to be undertaken by the lawyer and his other partners. Due to the fact that Bartleby doesn't blatantly refuse, it may be tough to understand how the lawyer becomes his slave, as Bartleby never uses violence, insult, or any other type of aggression. However, as subtle as it may seem, Bartleby, for no real reason, has assumed control over another person.
Bartleby's control, however, is not physical, but instead a mix of mental, emotional, and spiritual. He does not ever appear threatening to the lawyer, nor does the lawyer ever really think that he is his slave, as "there was something about Bartleby that .strangely disarmed [him]- (11). Bartleby, though quite possibly inadvertently, mentally manipulates the lawyer, as he invades the lawyer's every thought.