Bartleby, the Scrivener Analytical Essay

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Melvin Smith
Professor Schwartz
English 107
10/13/12

Bartleby, the Scrivener
After closely reading Bartleby, the scrivener, I found it rather difficult to figure out exactly who the antagonist was. The story is told by the protagonist, a safe elderly man who runs a practice on Wall Street. When he hires a new scrivener, Bartleby to his staff, the protagonist finds trouble getting him to work. Whenever the lawyer has a request for Bartleby, he would answer with the simple reply of “I would prefer not to.” The protagonist sees the world in a new and unsettling light after his experience with Bartleby.

Melville was able to create vivid images of the characters through the descriptions given by the narrator. His descriptions of Turkey, Nippers and Ginger Nut gave a powerful visualization and really put you into the story. The story seemed to revolve around the conflict between Bartleby and the narrator, but the reactions of the supporting characters responding to the strange behavior was what gave the reader their basic opinion of Bartleby. The negative opinions of the other three copyists made Bartleby the basic antagonist of the story. My opinion of Bartleby had changed drastically throughout the story. The deeper I got into the story, the more I tried to figure out the reasoning for his disobedience. He seemed to find life pointless and he wasn’t going to pretend that his life had meaning to him. When he states his preference to not do the tasks, he states his protest against the everyday routines that make life normal. He stood by this protest all the way to his death, which he did by starving. At first he seemed to be odd and at times very disrespectful, but now that I understand the reasoning of his attitude I have new found respect for him. For not faking enthusiasm for life, he was himself until his death. My opinion toward the antagonist also changed through the story. At the beginning of the story he believed that the easiest path is the best...
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