Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville

Last Updated: 13 Jul 2020
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This short story entitled "Bartleby the Scrivener" by Herman Melville gave as an idea about the several interesting characters with many poles apart personalities. But the one that was caught our attention was Bartleby. This man was a scrivener, which, in simple words, was a human description of a modern day copy machine. He did his job exceptionally well; he never stopped working, and got things done rapidly and proficiently. But, Bartleby was a man of one phrase: “I would not prefer to”. He said this as a reply to everything that was requested of him other than to copy documents.

Well in fact, he absolutely refused what his boss asked him to do. This confused the reader about Bartleby. But, Melville, never seemed to present an answer to this mystery. Another thing that caught my attention was that he never said “I will not. ”, but “I prefer not. ” This implied us that the individual he was talking to has a choice as to what Bartleby would or wouldn’t do, but in such a way, it was explained that he puzzled the narrator’s feelings, and for a long period of time, it caused him to accept the statement as a “no”.

I concluded this as one of the weaknesses of the narrator as a business owner, but at the same time made me thought what was Bartleby’s reason for responding in such a way. I also found out very interesting about him was his living habits. He decided to stay at the office which he didn’t even bother to ask the permission of his boss (the narrator). He washed, slept, and worked in that place also. He refused (or stated that he would “prefer not”) to adjust his living arrangements.

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The narrator transferred his business because Bartleby didn’t want to vacate the place after the new occupant arrived. The narrator understood him but in the end Bartleby was put into prison because of him also. To cut the story short, Bartleby died at the prison. The narrator had an investigation and discovered that his last job caused him some mental affliction and psychological disturbance. In my own point of view, I think if the narrator learned about the real situation of Bartleby as early as possible, he would treat him with compassion and understanding.

The reason of Bartleby by telling "I prefer not to," "I prefer not to," was to isolate his self among the rest and his lack of interest for involvement. The narrator explained in the passage below how he treated Bartleby, "I placed his desk close up to a small side window in that part of the room, a window which originally had afforded a lateral view of certain grimy backyards, and bricks, but which, owning to in subsequent erections, commanded at present, no view at all, though it gave some light.

Within three feet of the panes was a wall, and the light came down from far above between two lofty buildings, as from a very small opening in a dome. Still further to satisfactory arrangement, I procured a green folding screen, which might entirely isolate Bartleby from my sight, though, not remove him from my voice. " The narrator, himself, had separated and secluded Bartleby from the real world. In my opinion, what the narrator did wasn’t able to help Bartleby overcome his trauma from his last work.

It only added to the emotional problems that he hid from the start. He used to tell the word “I prefer not to” because he thought that he couldn’t do anything aside from his work and he didn’t even bother to mingle with other people because he considered himself unacceptable to whatever or whoever. For me, Bartleby didn’t want to isolate himself from other, in such a way that they couldn’t understand him, but the truth was the people that surrounded him, did the isolation.

Because of that, he developed negative impressions toward himself and others. As I analyzed this short story, I came up with the judgment that isolation was risky. It can drive an individual to insanity, make him speechless, or even kill his own self. The lesson was not to allow your own self to be overcomed by prejudices and discrimination, and let yourself be isolated.

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Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville. (2016, Sep 28). Retrieved from

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