“Raymond must tightly control his environment and daily routine or he becomes frantic.”
“But soon afterward, the new tenants of the narrator’s old offices come to him asking for help: Bartleby will not leave. When they oust him from the offices, Bartleby haunts the hallways.”
Analyzing the annotated quote above further, I am drawn to a conclusion that Bartleby was in fact Autistic. We don’t know exactly how any brain really works, on or off of the spectrum first and foremost. What we do know, is that thought processes between the nuerodiverse and the neurotypical are very different. This, combined with the simple fact that this story is narrated in first person as someone who doesn’t understand the actions of Bartleby, leads me further into this conclusion.
The names of the two staff members on the narrator’s staff are named Nippers and Turkey, which even for that time could suggest a method of reading this with Autism being considered could prove very useful to dissecting the characters, including the narrator. Both Ni have these very difficult problems, one being indigestion and one being alcoholism. Ironically, Turkey and Nippers seem to coincide just enough to maintain some fluidity at the office,but never at the same time. Nippers is irritable because of his indigestion in the morning, and Turkey has gone from sober at that time to drunk by the time Nippers is calmer. It was almost as if the narrator was trying to describe some of the challenges that people like Bartleby face in real life, anecdotal.
This is similar to how bipolar disorder can be. As sited by psychologist Andrea Witwer, PhD and psychiatrist Jessica Hellings, MD bipolar disorder is “over-diagnosed” in those on the Autism spectrum, yet also claimed that both share many common symptoms. Different thoughts and mind processes, struggling for control yet able to maintain what could be called a “normal day”, with one mood suddenly shifting and replacing the other but still working in conjunction with each other.
Delving deeper, the narrator starts noticing Bartleby living in the office, giving very similar answers, and overall behaving strangely with no rational explanation as to why. Later, after attempts to remove Bartleby from the premises fails he eventually winds up haunting the halls. This is similar to how Ray Babbit from Rain Man acts in the sense of routines being imperative and needing to be adhered to with a very punctual schedule often times. These lead me to believe Bartelby was in fact Autistic and at the time, nobody understood Bartleby so he ended up where most did during that time period; in an institution. Bartleby’s being the prison he dies in.
Bartleby also showed signs of Autism when he refused to review documents and eventually starve from always saying “I would prefer not to.” When forced to do something, harsh consequences followed for Bartleby. Imprisonment, which was very common before the 20th century occurred from refusing to break his routine of being at the old office. This was common for Autistic people before there was more awareness and more specific symptoms were diagnosed more effectively. Most went into mental institutions or prisons from acting out as a reaction to another’s action.
Bartleby and Ray shared many different prejudices and stereotypes, the most common themes being their institutionalization from being misunderstood, their outbursts from breaking routine and the lack of awareness and people’s impatience with them all being common themes to argue that Bartelby was most likely an Autistic character.