Close Reading - Bartleby the Scrivener

Topics: Oxford English Dictionary, Short story, Herman Melville Pages: 4 (1517 words) Published: June 6, 2012
Close Reading: Bartleby the Scrivener
Herman Melville wrote the short story, Bartleby The Scrivener, in 1853 at the age of thirty-four. Melville writes this short story during the Industrial Revolution era, where Wall Street was booming and the economy was changing and shifting rapidly. At this particular time, Herman Melville had just finished writing another short story that was astonishingly criticized by fellow writers and critics. Melville felt that humanity had mistreated him just for the sole reason that they could not fully understand his creativity. In the aftermath of this condemnation, Melville decided to write this particular short story. Bartleby was hired as additional help for a Lawyer as a scrivener. During his first few days on the job, Bartleby “did an extraordinary quantity of writing. As if long famishing for something to copy… he ran a day and night line, copying by sun-light and by candle-light” (Melville 1091). Overtime, though, Bartleby started “preferring not to continue working” (Melville) and ends up becoming valueless to the Lawyer. Bartleby never actually refuses to work for the narrator, but by the end of the passage, the concluding outcome ended up the equivalent. The Lawyer feels obligated to work with Bartleby because he sympathizes with him and does not fully comprehend why he has “preferred not to work” (Melville). Eventually, the Lawyer undergoes a transformation during the passage, leaving his positive affections toward society at his office door. Melville uses this transformation as a commentary on the negative aspects of his society.

There are multiple quotes throughout this short passage that expresses the basis of the negative aspects of human nature. One of these quotes comes from the second paragraph and explains, “The bond of a common humanity now drew [him] irresistibly to gloom. A fraternal melancholy!” (Melville 1097). This sentence really describes how the two men had a common thread. When one...
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