Bartleby: Food as Symbolism

Topics: Ginger, Scrivener, Ginger biscuits Pages: 3 (1050 words) Published: April 6, 2013
Food is one of the most blatant themes in Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville. As an appetizer, each of the lawyer’s assistants are given food related nicknames: Turkey, Nippers and Ginger Nut. They are each described in terms of food, their dispositions defined by their appetites. Ultimately it would be food, or the lack thereof, that lead to Bartleby’s demise. Turkey was said to only be useful to the lawyer in the morning before partaking in his daily dinner. He “was the quickest, steadiest creature” until twelve o’clock “accomplishing a great deal of work in a style not easily matched.” After dinner, however, he became “slightly rash with his tongue – in fact, insolent.” The lawyer even asked him to take afternoons off, to which he refused. It seemed that too much food made him irritable and caused his work habits to become hindered. Nippers, on the other hand, was said to suffer from indigestion which affected his mood. The lawyer “deemed him the victim of two evil powers – ambition and indigestion.” “The indigestion seemed betokened in an occasional nervous testiness and grinning irritability, causing the teeth to audibly grind together over mistakes committed in copying; unnecessary maledictions, hissed, rather than spoken, in the heat of business; and especially by a continual discontent with the height of the table where he worked.” In contrast to Turkey, “the irritability and consequent nervousness of Nippers were mainly observable in the morning, while in the afternoon he was comparatively mild.” Both Turkey and Nippers were only useful for half of each day – Turkey in the morning and Nippers the afternoon. The lawyer’s third assistant Ginger Nut, a boy of twelve years old, was sent by his father as a “student at law, errand-boy, cleaner, and sweeper at the rate of one dollar a week.” His father hoped that the boy would find himself in a better career position than he himself had. The boy Ginger Nut was named for the “small, flat, round, and very...

Cited: Shulman, Ken. "An Artistic Look at Depression." International Herald Tribune: 8. Jun 18 1994.
ProQuest. Web. 24 Mar. 2013.
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