Herman Melville’s “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids” clearly demonstrates how technology dehumanizes society. The first half of Melville’s story depicts the upper-class bachelors who eat gluttonous meals, relax, and separate themselves from humanity. However, when one bachelor goes out into the industrial world he sees that not only are the bachelors detached from reality but also the technology of the new factories subjects its workers to nothingness.
The paper mill factory is located in the “Devil’s Dungeon” (Melville 1266). When the readers first come across this name, many negative connotations arise. The evil, mysterious and gloomy images that accompany both devil and dungeon set the scene for what takes place inside of the factory. The devil can be seen as the factory, an all-encompassing negative force that controls all the workers that work for it. While the dungeon signifies how the workers are trapped inside of the paper-mill working “twelve hours to the day, day after day” (Melville 1278).
When the bachelor first goes to the “Devil’s Dungeon” to see the paper mill factory, he is in awe with the great machine that produces the paper. He spends multiple pages describing all the machine is capable to do as the “great machine is a miracle of inscrutable intricacy” (Melville 1278). The technology has been heightened to be an impeccable force that ultimately becomes the dictator. The technology controls the lives of the people and the girls become only “mere cogs to the wheels” (Melville 1271) of the machinery. The technology defines the society. All are impressed with all the technology’s capabilities, but no one pays attention to the girls running the factory. The bachelor constantly compares the girls to the blankness of the paper, blank counters and the “pallid incipience of the pulp” (Melville 1277). These comparisons delineate the fact that these girls are empty. The people working in the factory are barely thought about because they are barely living. They are merely robots aiding to their mother machine. The industrialization and use of technology takes away the qualities that make the girls human, as they are no longer alive.