Herman Melville’s “Bartleby” Essay
Updated: Oct 21st, 2018
The story of Bartleby is about an individual who enters the life of the author and brings with him a totally different aspect of life altogether that is difficult to comprehend due to his restrained nature. In this paper, we will assume that this is a story about love. We will see that the author was in love with the attitudes as well as the decisions of individuals such that he was unable to act on some of their actions however rash and jeopardizing they were to his work.
With the assumption that the story of “Bartleby the Scrivener” is a love story, it can be presumed that the author has taken a certain fascination that is in actual sense bordering on infatuation with the manner in which Bartleby holds his stance of polite “defiance”. He also portrays a certain liking to all his employees despite their erratic nature. For instance, when Turkey moistened a ginger cake in his lips and used it as a seal on a mortgage paper and the author came to within inches of firing him.
Turkey was able to wiggle out of the predicament by offering an oriental bow and stating “with submission sir, it was generous of me to find you in stationery on my own account” (Melville, 10). This simple gesture touched the author’s heart thus forgiving Turkey. When Bartleby first reports to work, the author viewed him as a contrast to the employees he has in the office because of their eccentric mood swings that keep changing with the time of day.
He perceives Bartleby as a normal person who may bring back a sense of norm to the daily mood swings of his other employees. This aspect of fascination can be seen in certain instances whereby the author decides to confront Bartleby in the setting of the office when Bartleby retorts to him after being requested to help in comparing some brief documents.
Bartleby said “I would prefer not to.” Under normal circumstances, this is asking for trouble in an office and it is tantamount to insubordination. But the author lets it slide and carries on with his job, deciding to let the matter go and reserving it for another time. This is because it was something new and he was amazed by the actions of Bartleby. In yet another instance, the author had called all the employees to gather their resources and examine four extensive documents that Bartleby had written.
All the employees were there except Bartleby, who in his normally candid manner replied “I would prefer not to”. The author states that were it any other person he would have reacted in an unpleasant manner and would end up ejecting the offender from the premises. But he meekly admits that there was something about Bartleby that not only extraordinarily won over him, but in a somewhat wonderful manner, flustered and touched him.
He states that he started reasoning with him. Another reason that may support the fact that the author loves his employees is the fact that Turkey gets sloppy in the afternoon hours and leaves blots of ink all over the papers. When confronted he states that he is getting old and that it should not be held against him if a drop or two spills on to the papers.
This was after his boss pointed out the fact that he does not have to work on Saturday especially in the afternoon, as this impeded his abilities to perform his work diligently and suggested to him to take the afternoons off. He absolutely declined and his boss took no offense and let him go on.
It can be stated that, the author was unable to get Bartleby out of his way due to an unexplainable attachment and unexplainable circumstances even when he moved out of the building, leaving him there since he was followed up on by the lawyer and landlord of the Wall Street office and even went to the extent of going to see Bartleby in “sing sing” (prison). Also, a feeling of remorse engulfs him when he finds Bartleby dead in the prison yard.
Melville, Herman. Bartleby the Scrivener. Philadelphia: Pennysylvania State University, 2002. Print.
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