Bartleby the Scrivener Study Guide

Bartleby the Scrivener Study Guide

Author:
Original title:
Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street
Published:
May 1st 2004 by Melville House (first published December 1853)
Setting:
New York City, New York (United States)
ISBN 0974607800 (ISBN13: 9780974607801)

“Bartleby The Scrivener” is also often called “A Story Of Wall Street”. It is written by Herman Melville in 1853 and published in a magazine in two parts. The book version was published in 1856.

Have you ever been confronted with objections? Some people are more successful with overcoming them while others are not. But what would you do if the objections of the other person are completely illogical and irrelevant?

The narrator of the story is a successful lawyer from Manhattan. His business is growing and he decides to employ another scrivener whose task would be to copy the legal documents. Not in a copy machine but by hand obviously. This is how we meet Bartleby.

The new addition to the team is very productive. He processes a lot of documents and does it fast. But after a while, he stops doing any work or performing any activity at all producing one argument – “I’d prefer not to”. The lawyer becomes annoyed but through his temper, he also grows fond of the weird man.

The story about Bartleby is a great way to see the society inside out. It talks about the system in general and the role of a single component in it. Bartleby is weird within the society but it’s this society that has put up walls around him: from the walls he is staring at in the office to the prison he is later sent to.

The author’s text is a social experiment on people and society in general. The characters don’t have names but are called by their nicknames. Their traits are very similar to the animals they are named after. They don’t have particularities in their appearance, actions or emotions. They are in the text for the roles played in the mechanism of a small legal office.

Bartleby’s silence and passivism is just a personification of the life around him: of the dead letters that never find their destination, of the pointless jobs that never leads to self-fulfillment, of the artificial barriers we put up between us. The interpretations of the novel are endless.

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