Technology: a detriment to society

Similar to “Life in the Iron Mills”, Herman Melville’s “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids” portrays a society in which some must suffer in order for others to live comfortably. The gap between upper and low class in this society is a direct result of industrialization, as the maids in this mill live miserably in order for the bachelors to live extravagantly. However, unlike Hugh, the narrator in this novella finds that the sought after lives of the upper class actually lack substance. The narrator feels that industrialization has negatively impacted both the upper and lower class, corrupting society as a whole

While the old Templars in the narrator’s society used the Temple Garden to prepare for battle, “the modern Templars now lounge on the benches beneath the tress, and, switching their patent-leather boots” (Melville 1259). Pre- industrialization, Templars were focused and motivated while the modern day Templar has become lazy and somewhat useless. The narrator expresses concern that the presence of technology is eliminating the drive to work hard among the upper class. He recalls that after drinking a sufficient amount of wine at the wealthy bachelors’ dinner, “[c]hoice experiences in their private lives were now brought out, like choice brands of Moselle or Rhenish..” (Melville 1263). The narrator sarcastically points out that he bachelor’s lives are so uneventful that the most private details of their lives are as trivial as deciding what brand of wine to buy. Although the people of the upper class in this society still have extravagant things during industrialization, they actually lead unfulfilling lives.

The lower class in this society is dehumanized by technology and the industrial age. The narrator refers to the mountain on which the paper mill where many poor women work as the “Devil’s Dungeon” ( Melville1266). This name suggests that the paper mill is place of punishment and torture for the people working there. After watching the lifeless girls work the machines at the mill the narrator notes that “[t]he girls did not so much seem accessory wheels to the general machinery as mere cog to the wheels” (Melville 1271).  The workers seem to have lost their humanity and exist only to serve their machines. The torturous work at the mill has caused the girls to appear as though they are actually part of the machines they operate.

Technology and the industrial age have ruined this society by causing suffering among the lower class and promoting ignorance and laziness among the upper class.


  1. I really agree with you here, Jamie. There was a definite sarcastic tone in the sorties, especially the first one. For example, when the narrator talks about the amount of stairs the men have to climb to reach the feast: “I know not ow many strange old stairs I climbed to get to it. But a good dinner, with famous company, should be well earned,” (Melville 1261). Clearly the men’s meal is not well earned; the women’s meal, however, is well earned. They actually work for their meals, while the men have to walk up a few flights of stairs. This snarky tone further supports Melville’s view on technology’s influence in society.

    1. You’re right about these things, Leo (although you write up most of these examples in your own post). What other moments of satire did you find in the Bachelors section? What first tipped you off that it was satire?

  2. You are completely right Jamie, I agree with you that technology is truly a detriment to both classes of society. The rich are spoiled and the poor are tortured. The rich only want to associate with those like them and the poor can never be seen relating with the rich. I’m glad you pointed out the sarcasm because the narrator certainly suggests that the host of the dinner should “merit immortal mention” just for being cordial and warm-heart. This was the honor that was bestowed on any fighting Templar, surely not on a warm-hearted bachelor. So he is essentially jesting at the new order of life as a Templar and expressing how trivial and unimportant his merit is.

  3. Nicely written, Jaime. But (to sound like a broken record), if technology is as evil as you (and Melville) make it out to be, why do we ourselves like it so much?

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