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Herman Melville S Bartleby The Scrivener

” Essay, Research Paper

HERMAN MELVILLE S BARTLEBY THE SCRIVENERA STORY OF WALL STREET The title character is a Scrivener , who would do the work of a legal secretary and a typist. He is Bartleby. From the narration of the story and many of Bartelby s other characteristics he can be pictured as an old man. The entire narration speaks of the conversation between the lawyer and the scrivener. Though, the lawyer contributes most of the conversation, the scrivener repeats only one phrase often i.e. I would prefer not to . CHARACTER OF BARTLEBY: The lawyer describes Bartleby as a strange scrivener he ever saw or heard. The initial description is of a motionless young man pitiably neat, pitiably respectful, incurably forlorn . With the entry of Bartleby, the lawyer thought the Bartleby would be useful in balancing the more boisterous spirits of his other two scriveners. His neatness and respectability makes his attractive for a clerical position, but the description stresses his pale sadness. Unlike the lawyer, however Bartleby is indomitable. The lawyer seeks the midway. Bartleby never compromises. A connection exists between writing copy and eating for Bartleby. At first he seems to gorge himself on the lawyers documents. A short time after he stop writing, he dies of starvation. He functions either totally or not at all. There is no middle ground. On reading a story, we are able to come to a conclusion about a character because of its relation to other characters in the story. Hue, Melville uses Bartleby as a tool to bring out the character of the lawyer. The characters in the work of art are only symbols or metaphors. They are not living men or woman Bartleby existence is understood from the first and last line of the story. Bartleby becomes a metaphor for humanity. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PHRASE I WOULD PREFER NOT TO : The character of the lawyer is derived from the action of Bartleby. Bartleby is not an action hero in this story but becomes the center of attraction due to the repetition of this phrase. The repetition of this phrase has a lot of influence for all the people in the lawyers office namely Gingernut, Turkey and Nippers. This small, muted phrase that Bartleby chooses for his negation is the measure of his intransigence. Moreover, Bartleby is a man of his word. He doesn t do what he says he won t do. His negative statement leads to passively, which, more than anything else, drives the lawyer nearly to distraction. Bartleby Suffers, too, ofcourse. The attitude so destructive to society becomes self-destructive. Bartleby ultimately prefers not to eat. He rejects in turn society, himself, food, and life. THE LAWYER AN UNRELIABLE NARRATOR: Unlike the Miller, the lawyer narrates the story from within. He is, to put it, mildly involved. Like the Miller, however he colours the story tells. Here the story reveals the character of the narrator. Although, the story is centered around Bartleby, we get to know the characteristics of the lawyer. The lawyer is an unreliable narrator because we begin to know more about the narrator that he might want us to know. Although the lawyer is the only source of information, we get the impression that we know more than the narrator is telling us. For example, the behaviour of the lawyer towards Bartleby makes us realise that Bartleby is some sense is the lawyer s alterego. BARTLEBY THE SCRIVENER AS A FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE: The lawyer is narrating the story. It is in the first person narrative. The I of the story is the narrator of the story. The distancing is not total because there is participation from the narrator. It has the advantage of exploiting because whenever the narrator wants to be close to the character he can. If he wants to maintain a distance he can. It is not necessary that the first person narrative should always be autobiographical. If the author and the I of the story are the same then it is autobiographical. In Bartleby the scrivener the I and the author are different but it is still in the first person narrative.

The first person point of view is referred to as an omniscient point of view . Aesthetic distancing has to be practiced when written in the omniscient point of view. This is not true in this story, as distancing is only partial. The author has made use of symbolism. Symbolism is a device of expression. Here in this story, he uses Bartleby as symbol. The title of story Bartleby the scrivener a story of Wall Street indicates wall as a symbol for the story. The lawyer is another important symbol. Turkey and Nippers can be considered as symbols because the morning, afternoon rhythm of these two characters parallels the pattern of the lawyer character and his response to Bartleby. CONFLICT: There is no plot without a conflict. It is important which leads to resolution in the plot. Here the conflict is between the will of the lawyer and the will of Bartleby. The resolution carries only when he dies. There is no story without conflict. It is always the clash of personalities and not the clash of persons. CONTRIBUTION OF TURKEY, NIPPERS AND GINGER NUT TO THE STRUCTURE OF THE STORY: Turkey works productively in the morning, but becomes reckless and noisy in the afternoon. He is approximately the same age as the lawyer. Somewhere not far from 60 , and he uses this similarity to convince the lawyer that he should continue working in the afternoons in spite of the blots . Nippers on the other hand, had his trouble of ambition, indigestion, and desk altering in the morning, in the afternoon he is a gentleman with a swift hand. Nippers is a very young man compared to Turkey. Together, old Turkey and young Nippers seem to make up the whole scrivener. Together the lawyer and Bartleby seem to make up one whole person. LAWYER S ENCOUNTER WITH BARTLEBY: The lawyer identifies Bartleby s action as passive resistance a particularly annoying but effective tactic to use against a person of liberal; humane learning s that the lawyer thinks himself to be. In order to avoid Bartleby s refusal, the lawyer asks him to do less and less. The roles have been reserved. It is always Bartleby who rebels against the lawyer and not the otherway round. The lawyer feels that he can never do anything against Bartleby s wish. An overpowering stinging melancholy suddenly binds him to Bartleby in a fleeting moment of sympathetic understanding. When Bartleby refuses to do work of any kind, the lawyer announces Bartleby must go. After having said this, the lawyer was experiencing peaks and lower valleys. After reading books on predestination, the lawyer finds that the earliest and most comfortable solution is simple to let Bartleby Stay. ALTER-EGO: Bartleby and the lawyer are the two parts of the same personality.When Bartleby refuses to leave the lawyers office, he preferred to shift to a new office rather than dump Bartleby. This alter ego can be justified from the following with which the lawyer says I love myself from him whom I had so longed to be rid of Bartleby may exists so much as a separate character but as one aspect of the lawyer s character, as a projection of dark, rebellions, non conforming side of the lawyer s being. The lawyer s compassion for Bartleby is compassion for self, and his withdrawal of sympathy is a refusal to admit resemblance. By generalizing Bartleby s plight to humanity, the lawyers may recognize that he too shared in that paid and is identical to Bartleby. We are left in a state of ambiguity, particularly, if we try to determine the villain or the hero. Bartleby is so negative that it is hard to see him as the conveyor of value in the story. He is the story s subject. The principle actor is the lawyer. The confirmation that the author gives us about Bartleby is that he was working in the dead letter office. This arises one question Dead letters! Does it not sound like dead men? Probably, it is this work of his which makes his amuerto life hardly appealing. Having left the Dead letter office, Bartleby s entrance into the lawyer s office had made his character reborn.