Bartleby the scrivener short story. Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wallstreet by Herman Melville, 1853 2022-10-25
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Bartleby the Scrivener is a short story by Herman Melville that was first published in 1853. It tells the story of a lawyer who employs a scrivener named Bartleby, who becomes increasingly uncooperative and eventually refuses to do any work at all.
The story begins with the lawyer, who is the narrator, telling the reader about his business as a scrivener, or a professional copyist. He hires Bartleby, a quiet and somewhat mysterious man, to work as a scrivener in his office. At first, Bartleby is an excellent worker and is very efficient at his job. However, as time goes on, he begins to refuse to do certain tasks and eventually refuses to do any work at all.
The lawyer is at a loss as to how to deal with Bartleby's strange behavior. He tries to reason with him and to get him to see the error of his ways, but Bartleby remains stubbornly uncooperative. The lawyer even offers to pay Bartleby to leave, but he refuses to take the money and simply says "I prefer not to."
As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Bartleby is suffering from some kind of mental illness. He becomes more and more isolated and withdrawn, spending all of his time in the office, refusing to leave or to interact with anyone. The lawyer becomes increasingly frustrated and concerned for Bartleby's well-being, but is unable to do anything to help him.
In the end, Bartleby is taken away by the authorities and the lawyer is left to ponder the strange and disturbing events that have occurred in his office. The story ends with the lawyer musing about the nature of freedom and the role of the individual in society.
Bartleby the Scrivener is a thought-provoking and poignant story that explores themes of isolation, mental illness, and the struggle for individual autonomy. It is a powerful and timeless tale that continues to resonate with readers today.
Bartleby, the Scrivener
They err who would assert that invariably this is owing to the inherent selfishness of the human heart. Now and then, in the haste of business, it had been my habit to assist in comparing some brief document myself, calling Turkey or Nippers for this purpose. Owing to the great height of the surrounding buildings, and my chambers being on the second floor, the interval between this wall and mine not a little resembled a huge square cistern. And you must be as polite to him as possible. The difficulty was, he was apt to be altogether too energetic. Men have committed murder for jealousy's sake, and anger's sake, and hatred's sake, and selfishness' sake, and spiritual pride's sake; but no man that ever I heard of ever committed a diabolical murder for sweet charity's sake.
Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street Full Text
The Lawyer tells him he must, but Bartleby sits there silently. Some days passed, the scrivener being employed upon another lengthy work. The difficulty was, he was apt to be altogether too energetic. Immediately it occurred to me that my ears had deceived me, or Bartleby had entirely misunderstood my meaning. Indeed, it was his wonderful mildness chiefly, which not only disarmed me, but unmanned me, as it were. The Lawyer asks Bartleby to go to the next room and summon Nippers for him.
For example, I cannot credit that the mettlesome poet Byron would have contentedly sat down with Bartleby to examine a law document of, say five hundred pages, closely written in a crimpy hand. It was not a very arduous office, but very pleasantly remunerative. To the dismay of the lawyer and the irritation of the other employees, Bartleby performs fewer and fewer tasks and eventually none, instead spending long periods of time staring out one of the office's windows at a brick wall. I remembered that Bartleby never left the office. Bartleby no longer reads anything, and makes no effort to converse with other people. Every thing was methodically arranged, the papers smoothly placed. Over the course of my professional life, I have known many Bartlebys, - people who put their own needs, wishes and preferences first and reject the very idea of working together to achieve a common goal.
Melville Stories "Bartleby the Scrivener" Summary & Analysis
If he does, let him live on the prison fare, that's all. There is no trying of the eyesight in that. Yes: his decision was irreversible. To a sensitive being, pity is not seldom pain. The short story describes the dilemma of individual and collective responsibility in a narrative that is both sad and humorous, and intensely engaging. I never use it myself. His steadiness, his freedom from all dissipation, his incessant industry except when he chose to throw himself into a standing revery behind his screen , his great stillness, his unalterableness of demeanor under all circumstances, made him a valuable acquisition.
It does not strike me that there is any thing definite about that. For by the cart-load they are annually burned. It was an old bandanna handkerchief, heavy and knotted. But, in the end, in the tragic and evasive end, the novella had proved itself to be anything but simple and he was none of this and all of this, of course. Every body is concerned; clients are leaving the offices; some fears are entertained of a mob; something you must do, and that without delay. Since he will not quit me, I must quit him. So fearful was I of being again hunted out by the incensed landlord and his exasperated tenants, that, surrendering my business to Nippers, for a few days I drove about the upper part of the town and through the suburbs, in my rockaway; crossed over to Jersey City and Hoboken, and paid fugitive visits to Manhattanville and Astoria.
Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville Plot Summary
On the appointed day I engaged carts and men, proceeded to my chambers, and having but little furniture, every thing was removed in a few hours. I observed that he never went to dinner; indeed that he never went any where. Now and then, in the haste of business, it had been my habit to assist in comparing some brief document myself, calling Turkey or Nippers for this purpose. What had one best do? Historical Context Examples in Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street: Lord George Gordon Byron was a famous romantic poet from England. It is not seldom the case that when a man is browbeaten in some unprecedented and violently unreasonable way, he begins to stagger in his own plainest faith. One prime thing was this,--he was always there;--first in the morning, continually through the day, and the last at night. And see, it is not so sad a place as one might think.
Historical Context in Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street
Nevertheless, as he was in many ways a most valuable person to me, and all the time before twelve o'clock, meridian, was the quickest, steadiest creature too, accomplishing a great deal of work in a style not easy to be matched--for these reasons, I was willing to overlook his eccentricities, though indeed, occasionally, I remonstrated with him. First, he does not want to proofread the documents. The proceeding then which followed will not be deemed extraordinary. These sad fancyings—chimeras, doubtless, of a sick and silly brain—led on to other and more special thoughts, concerning the eccentricities of Bartleby. Now the interesting part is how the lawyer would handle him. Not only did there seem to lurk in it a certain calm disdain, but his perverseness seemed ungrateful, considering the undeniable good usage and indulgence he had received from me. My procedure seemed as sagacious as ever.
Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street Full Text and Analysis
His father was a carman, ambitious of seeing his son on the bench instead of a cart, before he died. Thereupon, Bartleby would tranquilly decline, and yet remain idle as before. At the moment I half intended something of the kind. He overheard those final words of Bartleby. Bartleby and I were alone.
Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street by Herman Melville
It was an important suit, and great accuracy was imperative. It was not accessible to the common prisoners. Accordingly Turkey, Nippers and Ginger Nut had taken their seats in a row, each with his document in hand, when I called to Bartleby to join this interesting group. Later the narrator returns to find that Bartleby has been forcibly removed and imprisoned in the Tombs. The tale is one of the final works of fiction published by Melville before, slipping into despair over the continuing critical dismissal of his work after Moby-Dick, he abandoned publishing fiction.
At the period just preceding the advent of Bartleby, I had two persons as copyists in my employment, and a promising lad as an office-boy. At last, in reply to my urgings, he informed me that he had permanently given up copying. There was now great work for scriveners. It was the circumstance of being alone in a solitary office, up stairs, of a building entirely unhallowed by humanizing domestic associations—an uncarpeted office, doubtless, of a dusty, haggard sort of appearance;—this it must have been, which greatly helped to enhance the irritable desperation of the hapless Colt. I like to be stationary. But the truth which haunts me is how precisely Melville delineates how we all survive--or do not survive--our workaday worlds. The story is not told by Bartleby, but by his employer, a middle aged, laidback, financially successful and quietly witty attorney for the bigwigs of industry, who needs clerks to make copies of his legal papers.