Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that an individual must focus and care solely about what he or she feels is right, and not be manipulated or persuaded by society. Emerson's essay on "Self Reliance” focuses on how the individual should confidently believe in his own ideas and should disregard anything that society might think. The fact that a person is able to stand up for himself is what Emerson considers that essential. Several of Emerson's statements address the individual; however, there is specific pithy statement that concerns the individual in relation to group interference. "What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it” (23). In this statement, Emerson emphasizes the importance of the individual within a group. There will always be other people who feel that they know what is right; however, it is only each person who truly knows what is right for him or herself. In Herman Melville's "Bartleby,” Bartleby is a character who keeps to himself, yet at the same time he does not allow those around him to change the way he reacts in situations. Melville's answer to Emerson's ideal of the individual is in Bartleby's passive resistance, which is most notable in Bartleby's first refusal, his obstinacy about remaining where he is not wanted, and his death. .
When the reader is first introduced to Bartleby's character, his individuality is revealed as he replies to his boss' first request with a refusal, "I would prefer not to” (10). This quality expresses an internal confidence; he says what he wants to say. Bartleby does not care at all about what anyone asks of him, he continues to act the way that he wants. This upsets his boss after a while because Bartleby does not listen to what he is told to do. Bartleby is following the Emersonian ideal by doing what he, as an individual, wants to do, not what others necessarily order or suggest him to do.