Bartlebys physical appearance — his pale visage, his lean form, his tattered clothing and his “flute-like” voice — conveys a man who is like the living dead. Indeed, the narrator discovers that Bartleby has been sleeping in the office. Bartleby is like a man who is haunting the building. He only speaks when he is summoned; he has no discernible emotional reactions, and he floats around the office as if he is not even there. Bartleby is more of a “fixture” than a human being. Death is alluded to not only in Bartlebys own physical nature but also in the office itself, with its “dead brick wall” that match the “dead-wall reveries” of his mind.
Bartlebys ghostly form shows that he does not take pleasure in life; he does not eat or drink or even go for walks. He barely speaks with other people. The narrator ultimately understands that it is not Bartlebys physical body that ails him, even though Bartlebys eyes are “dull and glazed.” Bartleby does not complain of pain: “his body did not pain him; it was his soul that suffered, and his soul I could not reach.” Like a ghost, Bartleby has little attachment to his physical form. He seems utterly detached from the domain of the living and only floats around, making only the slightest ripple in the world around him. Bartleby means no harm; his torment is internal and he does not haunt in order to disturb others.
Bartlebys ghost-like appearance is simply testimony of his tortured soul.
When Bartleby refuses to leave the office, then it becomes clear that the scrivener is indeed a living ghost. He haunts the building, unable to leave because his soul has no motivation to live. Bartleby lives as if behind the screen that separates the living from the dead: “stay there behind your screen,” the narrator states. The descriptions of Bartleby become more ghost-like as the story progresses. The narrator becomes resigned to Bartlebys presence just as the owner of a haunted house might. “I shall persecute you no more; you are harmless and noiseless as any of these old chairs.” Bartleby himself acts more ghost-like too, hovering about when lawyers arrive. “Bartleby would remain standing immovable in the middle of the room.”
However, Bartleby is not a ghost; he is a living man. His depressed personality, his immovable body, and his unreachable soul have a strong impact on all those around him and especially the narrator. Ultimately, Bartleby is treated as if he were dead. He is “removed to the Tombs as a vagrant.” Bartleby has been exorcised from Wall Street, and he dies exactly as he.