Bartleby the Scrivener

Topics: Dead letter office, Scrivener, Bartleby, the Scrivener Pages: 4 (1362 words) Published: December 14, 2006
In Bartleby the Scrivener, a lawyer on Wall Street who is in need of additional copyists hires a man named Bartleby, who is quiet, reserved, and mysterious. After a few days of doing an extraordinary job of copying, Bartleby is asked to compare a copy sheet, to which he replies, "I would prefer not to." The lawyer is surprised at the employee's response but does nothing in retaliation. Several days later when asked to do something "perfectly reasonable" Bartleby again replies, "I would prefer not to." The lawyer goes into his office one Sunday morning and is surprised that Bartleby is there. He realizes that Bartleby has been living in his office. Back at work the next week thereafter, the attorney questions Bartleby about his past. He doesn't learn anything. Bartleby quits doing any work, claiming poor eyesight, but he won't leave the office. He continues to live in the office, and prefers not to leave or to start working again. Out of frustration and to be rid of Bartleby, who neither works nor pays rent, the lawyer relocates his office. He is soon called upon by his old landlord to get Bartleby out of his building. Upon his visit, the attorney tries to reason with Bartleby, but Bartleby prefers not to do anything. The lawyer leaves and a few days later learns that Bartleby has been taken to the Tombs. He goes to visit Bartleby in jail, who will not eat, and a few visits later, the lawyer finds Bartleby lying in the prison yard, curled up in a fetal position. Bartleby had died, apparently from starvation. Questions remain: Why did Bartleby always prefer not to? Why can't he make friends or communicate? What is the cause for his rebellion? On another note, why does the lawyer show so much charity and sympathy towards Bartleby? As the narrator tells us, little is known about Bartleby's history. In fact, all he says he knows is that Bartleby once worked for the Dead Letter Office in Washington. Does this alone explain why Bartleby is unsocial...

Cited: Boos, Florence. "Bartleby the Scrivener." Department of English. University of Iowa. 11 Dec. 2005 .
Gupta, R. K. ""Bartleby": Melville 's Critique of Reason." Indian Journal of American Studies 4 (1974): 66-71.
Melville, Herman. "Bartleby the Scrivener." 1853.
"Melville Stories Study Guide." Sparknotes. 11 Dec. 2005 .
Sundararajan, Louise. "Being as Refusal: Melville 's Bartleby as Heideggerian Hero." Janus Head. 11 Dec. 2005 .
Woodlief, Ann. "Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street." Study webtext. Virginia Commonwealth University. 11 Dec. 2005 .
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