NOTE! The below paper is just an example written by one of our staff writers. If you need an original summary of “Bartleby the Scrivener Summary” or a paper on a different topic, feel free to place your order.
The book Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street is a short story written by Herman Melville. The narrator is an elderly lawyer who is a successful businessman. He has two employees but expansion forces him to employ Bartleby, who is an efficient copyist but quiet and antisocial. He refuses to take orders from his employer and fellow employees. Bartleby never leaves the office and later his colleagues realize that he lives there. With time he restrains from any office work and when forced to leave the office, he refuses. The narrator decided to shift his business to a different place to avoid problems with him. Bartleby is arrested and taken to prison when he fails to comply with the new tenants. The story concludes with Bartleby refusing to eat at the prison and therefore, starves to death. The story focuses on three character types based upon the super ego Freudian philosophy, which is the id, ego and super ego. As reported by Freud, it is important to note that ego is representing the basic mankind instinct; on the other side, super ego brings a representation of God and the id is a representation of compromise.
Bartleby the Scrivener Characters
Basically, the narrator of Bartleby is identified as an elderly lawyer overseeing his own office in New York City on Wall Street. In the story, the narrator has two scriveners who are working for him. In Bartleby, the Scrivener story they have been hired to write or copy documents for the court and offer examination to them, or perform the same in managing official capacities. From the story, the two scriveners, Turkey and Nippers, in most cases lose their job and at times can be ill tempered. Nippers is younger and experiencing a great challenge in delivering in the morning, while Turkey is slightly older and he is facing some challenges when it comes to doing his task in the evening. In handling other normal operation, the narrator ended up employing Ginger who was an errand boy since he could fetch scriveners.
Since the narrator was facing some challenges in working with other scriveners, he ended up hiring Bartleby, whom he believed was calm. His expectation was that Bartleby was to calm down the others and in the process motivate them to put more effort in their jobs. Bartleby showed his great work by putting effort through the night and during the day and demonstrating serious commitment and diligence. He works solely by candlelight. However, one day, Bartleby, the Scrivener was ordered by the lawyer to search for a small document; there was a strange response from Bartleby and his response was that I wouldn’t prefer to. The answer was a great surprise to the lawyer since his scriveners were always in compliance with the request. He was astonished by his answer and requested Nippers to handle it, in the process; he decided to be quiet on Bartleby and requested Nippers to handle it.
After some time, the lawyer then orders the rest of the staff and Bartleby to search for a large document, which was copied by Bartleby. Things were not different and Bartleby responded that he didn’t prefer doing it. This provoked a reaction and other scriveners were angry and confused in taking Bartleby’s task. The lawyer is in this case confused with the response that Bartleby was able to offer. He gets angry about Bartleby’s behavior starting to pity him, as he would not receive good treatment for his behavior.
In the process, Turkey ended up becoming frustrated and angry and ended up shouting at him for not focusing on the document. It’s very funny that the narrator supported Bartleby in the process but Bartleby still offered the same response that he was not going to do it.
Get professional help with writing a paper on ‘Bartleby the Scrivener’ from our proficient and experienced writers
- Pressed for time?
- Looking for a subject matter expert?
- Need a high-quality, plagiarism-free paper?
The Narrator is a lawyer and owns a law firm in Wall Street where he works with four men as scriveners. He is an industrious, level-headed, and business-minded man. He deals with people well but Bartley becomes troublesome to him. Throughout the Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street he shows sympathy towards Bartleby.
Bartleby is a young man hired as a law copyist by the narrator. He is an excellent scrivener at the beginning but later he “prefer not to” do anything instructed (Melville, 2014). The phrase used by Bartleby increasingly frustrates the lawyer and other employees. No one knows the cause of his isolation, non-conformity, and inability to work. People believe that it is his previous work at a dead-letter office that led to his unique character.
Turkey is a fat, drunkard Englishman in his sixties. He works well in the morning but approaches the rebellious state in the afternoon. In the afternoon, he handles work recklessly and messes his columns. His clothes contain oil spills and smell like a restaurant.
Nippers is a scrivener working for the lawyer. He is opposite to Turkey because he works well in the afternoon than in the morning. In the morning, he has stomach issues; therefore, he cannot work well, but in the afternoon, when the complication reduces, he works well.
Ginger Nut is a young boy who works as an office factotum for the lawyer. He is ambitious for he works for a dollar per week. He also works as an office boy for the employees who send him to purchase cakes.
The new tenants and the Landlord
The new tenants occupy the room previously rented by the narrator; this is the room where Bartleby decided to live. They come to seek help from the lawyer to make Bartleby leave the room. One of them threatens a scandal if they do not receive support from the narrator.
The Grub-man is a turnkey who feeds prisoners; he receives bribery from the lawyer so that he can feed Bartleby well. He only provides quality food to those who can afford to pay something extra.
Bartleby the Scrivener Themes
Isolation is the central theme in Bartleby the Scrivener short story; it appears when Bartleby isolates himself from the employer and fellow employees (Gale, 2015). He does not receive orders from anyone and decides to do nothing with time; he prefers not to leave the building until he is arrested. Bartleby seems to have no family or friends.
Bartleby communicates efficiently with nobody. When the narrator asks him to revise the documents he copied, he responds with a phrase that frustrates everyone in the Herman Melville’s story. The phrase “I would prefer not to” becomes a leitmotif throughout the story. Most of the characters are frustrated by Bartleby’s phrase and therefore, no communication proceeds.
Bartleby the Scrivener Analysis
The setting of the Bartleby the Scrivener story is an integral financial center in the US where Melville grew up. The story revolves around Bartleby who answers people’s questions with “I would prefer not to”. Through this Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street short story, the writer is asking readers what makes people unique and independent? It is great to have the two qualities, and at times, people take it too far to a point where it starts to affect their lives (Arsic, 2007). It shows that conflict produces and reveals the character of a person. The story by Herman Melville focuses on three character types based upon Freudian philosophy, which is the id, ego and super ego. As reported by Freud, it is important to note that the ego is representing the basic mankind instinct; on the other side, super ego brings a representation of God and the id a representation of compromise. Basically, these are associated with the greater good and the employer, the isolated employee, the greater good and the rest of the workers. However, taking an overview of Herman Melville, the author of Bartleby the Scrivener, it is more of a general perception of hopelessness and despair due to his own individual experiences. In the story, following is considered to be a sad end: death in isolation and withdrawal from the community.
Arsić, B. (2007). Passive constitutions, or, 7 1/2 times Bartleby. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press.
Gale, C. L. (2015). Study guide for Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener. Detroit: Gale, Cengage Learning.
Melville, H. (2014). Bartleby, The Scrivener: A story of Wall-Street. HarperPerennial Classics.