One day, when Bartleby is asked to help proofread one of the documents he copied, he answers simply, "I would prefer not to. To the dismay of the narrator and the irritation of the other employees, Bartleby takes part in fewer and fewer duties around the office. The narrator makes several attempts to reason with Bartleby and learn about him, but Bartleby always responds the same way when asked to do a task or give out information about himself: "I would prefer not to.
The loneliness of Bartleby's life strikes the narrator: at night and on Sundays, Wall Street is as desolate as a ghost town. He alternates between pity and revulsion for Bartleby's bizarre behavior. Bartleby continues to refuse duties, until finally he is doing no work at all. And yet the narrator cannot get him to leave. The scrivener has a strange power over his employer, and the narrator feels he cannot do anything to harm this forlorn man.
But his business associates begin to wonder at Bartleby's presence at the office, since he does no work, and the threat of a ruined reputation forces the narrator to do something. His attempts to get Bartleby to go are fruitless.
So the narrator moves his offices to a new location. But soon afterward, the new tenants of the narrator's old offices come to him asking for help: Bartleby will not leave. When they oust him from the offices, Bartleby haunts the hallways. The narrator goes to see Bartleby in one last attempt to reason with him, but Bartleby rejects him. For fear of being bothered by the anti-Bartleby folks, the narrator stays away from work for a few days.
When he returns, he learns that Bartleby has been put in prison. At the prison, Bartleby seems even more glum than usual. The narrator's friendliness is rebuffed. The narrator bribes a turnkey to make sure Bartleby stays well fed.
But when the narrator returns a few days later, Bartleby has died. He preferred not to eat. Some time afterward, the narrator hears a rumor that Bartleby worked in a Dead Letter Office. The narrator reflects that the dead letters would have made anyone of Bartleby's temperament sink into an even darker gloom.
The letters are emblems for our mortality and the failure of our best intentions. Symbols All Symbols. Theme Wheel. Bartleby, the Scrivener Study Guide Next. A concise biography of Herman Melville plus historical and literary context for Bartleby, the Scrivener. In-depth summary and analysis of every of Bartleby, the Scrivener. Visual theme-tracking, too.
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Melville returned from the sea to the United States in , docking in Boston. Around this time Melville married Elizabeth Shaw, and the couple had their first child in , the same year that his third and fourth novels, Mardi and Redburn , were both released to little financial success although Redburn did receive some critical acclaim.
In , Melville moved his family to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he struck up a friendship with author Nathaniel Hawthorne, to whom he eventually dedicated his massive novel Moby-Dick , released in to critically mixed reviews and financial failure.
His next novel, Pierre , released in , was another dud in terms of sales, and led to the end of Melville being considered a popular novelist during his lifetime. Melville then wrote short stories, which were published in magazines, including Bartleby, the Scrivener , The Encantadas , and Benito Cereno. Through the rest of his life, Melville wrote two more novels, and he also traveled to Europe and then East Asia before returning to the United States to take a post as a customs inspector in New York.
Towards the end of his life Melville wrote poetry, including a collection focused on his concerns about the morality of the civil war called Battle-Pieces and Aspects of War , released in During his final years until his death of cardiovascular disease in , Melville privately published two volumes of poetry and returned to writing prose although he never published it.
Whereas in the New York Stock Exchange traded about shares per day, by the exchange traded as many as 5, shares per day. Also, as technology advanced with the advent of the telegraph in , the scope of the New York Stock Exchange grew and became more powerful.
This trend of work shifting from open spaces to enclosed domestic offices likely influenced Melville in the writing of Bartleby, the Scrivener , and it is the backdrop in which the story is set. An external influence on Bartleby might have been The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton, as some critics have argued that this book may have introduced Melville to the concept of the Humors, which was the idea that there are four basic elements at play in humans derived from the four elements of air, fire, earth and water.
Correspondingly, it has been agued that in Bartleby the four main characters the three scriveners plus The Lawyer each correspond to a different humor: Turkey represents the sanguine, Nippers the choleric, The Lawyer the phlegmatic, and Bartleby the melancholic. There are also many works written after related to Bartleby. Further, any comedy or tragedy set in a modern workplace, such as the TV comedy series The Office or the films Office Space or Glengarry Glen Ross , can be seen as variations on the themes presented in Bartleby.
Extra Credit for Bartleby, the Scrivener Reference to a murder. Cite This Page.Spaceman Spiff - ENDLICH NICHTS 12 Songs - CD/LP/MP3 "Die Wüste ist nur Sandpapier und dieser Abend ist nur viel zu wenig Licht / Die Stadt ist nur ein Schutzschild und mehr nicht / Dieser Nebel ist nur Milchglas, selbst der Ozean ist nur ein großer See".