Analysis of character from Bartleby the Scrivener

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The novel "Bartleby the Scrivener" by Herman Melville is told from the eyes of a Manhattan lawyer. The action centres on Bartleby, a copyist or ""scrivener"" at the narrator's law firm. Bartleby is the law firm's third scrivener. He was hired after the lawyer discovered there was so much work for Nippers and Turkey, the only two scriveners at the law firm (Fasano 84). Bartleby was impressive at work in his earlier days, as seen by the high-quality work he used to do (Fasano 84). However, as time passed, he developed bad work standards, and the quality of his work deteriorated. This paper will attempt to analyze and evaluate Bartleby's character in depth and draw relevant inferences from the findings.
Bartleby's Character
Bartleby can be said to have been arrogant, though in a relatively "polite" manner. This can be seen after the narrator started noticing that he had started producing sub-standard content and called him to his office to reprimand him. Bartleby arrogance manifests itself when he refuses to take the document which the narrator wanted him to examine and in response stated that "I would prefer not to" (Fasano 85). These words surprised the narrator, and they kept on echoing at the back of his head. Upon being asked for the second time, Bartleby still refused to do the work. This level of arrogance continued being manifested during Bartleby's tenure. He had started developing a trend of producing low quality work which he refused to revise even after being requested to do so (Fasano 86).
Bartleby is portrayed as an individual who suffers from a psychological problem. This perception can be seen right from the moment he went to the law firm for his job interview. The narrator stated that though Bartleby had come for a job interview in the morning, he appeared motionless (Fasano 84). The audience can pick out that Bartleby is an introvert who for some reason enjoyed his own company. He lived in solitude and hardly went anywhere else other than the office (Fasano 87). Bartleby's demeanor and blank gaze showed how he had distanced himself from the reality. While working at the office, he had a tendency of zoning out and staring at a brick wall that was adjacent to the office. This behavior seemed to irk the narrator who believed that Bartleby still stared at the walls even as he daydreamed (Fasano 87).
In as much as the narrator had resigned to the fact that Bartleby was stubborn and arrogant since he never wanted to revise his work, he [the narrator] still considered him an invaluable asset to the law firm (Fasano 89). The narrator expressly stated that he was impressed by Bartleby's industry, honesty, and diligence (Fasano 89). To the vast majority, it would seem ironical that the narrator would be pleased with an employee who was out rightly rude and disobedient. However, this irony might have been Melville's ingenious way of portraying the fact that in life, everyone is not perfect. One might have some shortcomings, but they should still be accorded opportunities to exercise their potential.
Melville's description of Bartleby shows that he was a person who was suffering from depression. He lived in solitude and starved himself to death by surviving solely on ginger nuts (Fasano 87). He had no fixed abode, and the office was his bachelor's hall and he narrator only realized that this was happening after he made an impromptu visit at the office on a Sunday (Fasano 90). The fact that he had made the office his home was the reason why he was always the last person at the office and the first to arrive. When the narrator came to know about Bartleby's state, he was melancholic and stated that "For both I and Bartleby were sons of Adams” (Fasano 91). The narrator tried his best for Bartleby to open up to him so that he can assist him but his efforts fell on deaf ears (Fasano 92). Bartleby was portrayed as a person who lacks the motivation and self-drive to get on with life. The narrator outlined the fact that Bartleby was used to watch other people go about their business in silence and the narrator felt that it was his way of sharing his loneliness with them.

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Bartleby's character as highlighted above can be perceived in many ways. For starters, he is a classic example of what clinical depression does to people. Bartleby's lack of motivation and his life in solitude are also some of the symptoms of people who have fallen into depression. Melville also sought to give a glimpse of how some introverts lived their lives. Most often, they do not divulge personal details and are always in solitary. Furthermore, the story seeks to encourage people to give others second chances. If the narrator had dismissed Bartleby, he would not have a reliable employee and also would not have understood the suffering he was undergoing.
Works Cited
Fasano, Thomas. Great short stories by great American writers: Bartleby the Scrivener.
Coyote Canyon Press, 2011.

August 31, 2021



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