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Bartleby and Benito Cereno Paperback – Unabridged, July 1, 1990
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From the Back Cover
"Bartleby" (also known as "Bartleby the Scrivener") is an intriguing moral allegory set in the business world of mid-19th-century New York. A strange, enigmatic man employed as a clerk in a legal office, Bartleby forces his employer to come to grips with the most basic questions of human responsibility, and haunts the latter's conscience, even after Bartleby's dismissal.
"Benito Cereno," considered one of Melville's best short stories, deals with a bloody slave revolt on a Spanish vessel. A splendid parable of man's struggle against the forces of evil, the carefully developed and mysteriously guarded plot builds to a dramatic climax while revealing the horror and depravity of which man is capable.
Reprinted here from standard texts in a finely made, yet inexpensive new edition, these stories offer the general reader and students of Melville and American literature sterling examples of a literary giant at his story-telling best.
Dover (1990) republication of standard texts of works originally published in The Piazza Tales, 1856. Note to Dover Edition.
About the Author
Herman Melville (1819–1891) found early success with stories inspired by his adventures in the South Seas. His fortunes declined with the 1851 publication of Moby-Dick, now recognized as a masterpiece but scorned by Melville’s contemporaries. The author was obliged to work as a New York City customs inspector and died in obscurity, three decades before the critical reassessment of his work.
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Top Customer Reviews
Bartleby's refusal, his famous "I prefer not to," seems more like a deliberate and sane NO. People did know what depression was back then (though it was generally called melancholia, instead). Bartleby's condition (our condition?) is something much deeper, much more terrifying-- the possibility that one can observe the world from a completely rational mind and decide that participation is not worth it.
If we decide that Bartleby's problem was depression, must we call Kurtz a paranoid schizophrenic? All of Beckett's characters could use a Xanax prescription, because they seem pretty bleak, too.
Bartleby is fascinating because of what we don't know; Melville is the great American exploiter of Negative Capability, Keats's term, defined as "when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason."
It is because Melville is willing to refrain from that "irritable reaching after fact and reason" that Bartleby (and Benito Cereno and Moby-Dick) is a story that lingers in the imagination. If we knew why the man simply quit the business of life, if we knew it was a deficiency of chemicals in his brain or whatever, we would not be so haunted by his fate.
What's best about this story, even more than the smart plot, is the author's technique. He puts the reader right in the middle of the action. Just like in life, where we have no narrator telling us what the rest of the characters are doing "meanwhile". We only know what we learn from our senses, hopefully processed through reason.
The second tale, "Bartleby the scrivener" follows a technique similar to that of "Benito Cereno", but within a very different context and plot. It's narrated in first person by a good-hearted and charitable Wall Street lawyer (I guess times have changed)who hires a young and silent man as a copyist (that is, before Xerox, the guy who made manual copies of legal documents).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I wonder when a man snaps, is there a moment when he can be saved, or if we choose to not help him do we not just lose the man we lose humanity as well.Published 1 month ago by bobbi jo matias
I had to read it for a class. There was a lot embedded in the descriptions. They are really lengthy descriptions. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Jazmin
These is my opinion:
If you love Moby Dick and you still want more Melville checkout Bartleby an Benito Cereno
Reviewed by James David
Author of The Coast Guard Oracle
I PREFER NOT TO MISINTERPRET Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street”
by Dr. Read more
Melville has a tendency to overload his narrative, but since this is a short book it doesn't ruin the tale. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Jim F. Baughman