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Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street

4.3 out of 5 stars 106 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1480255418
ISBN-10: 1480255416
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Editorial Reviews


''Herman Melville is one of American literature's greatest figures.'' --The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English

About the Author

HERMAN MELVILLE (1819-1891) was born in New York City. Family hardships forced him to leave school for various occupations, including shipping as a cabin boy to Liverpool in 1839--a voyage that sparked his love for the sea. A shrewd social critic and philosopher in his fiction, he is considered an outstanding writer of the sea and a great stylist who mastered both realistic narrative and a rich, rhythmical prose. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick and the posthumously published novella Billy Budd.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 44 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (September 25, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1480255416
  • ISBN-13: 978-1480255418
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #692,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
A companion piece to Moby-Dick, and probably one of the most important short stories ever written, although the distinction between a "short story" and a "novella" has been blurred in recent decades. Are we going strictly by length? And if so, what is the cut off?

At any rate, this is a fantastic story, if a bit heavy for the casual reader. Bartleby, the Scrivener, is the deeply disturbing and ultimately fatalistic portrait of one man's hopeless sojourn through the rat-maze of the times, which is, in fact, all times. Bartleby, a hopeless grunt of a worker, is extraordinary only because of the implacable insistence he places on retaining his individuality in the face of Melville's almighty corporate capitalist system. He is the mouse who utterly refuses to sniff the cheese. He is the cog that dares to resist the pressures both from within and without.

A former postal worker in a dead letter office, Bartleby finds himself attached to a law firm as a copyist, once again doing work he would rather not be doing with no end in sight, until he asserts vocally that he is not going to do it any longer. Or, in his words, he "prefers not to." Come what may, he prefers not to chase the cheese any longer -- was it the time he spent with the dead letters that changed him? We don't really know, can only guess. All we know for sure is that he, unaccountably, though accepting his status as a rat (for how can he not?) does not accept his label as tool, cog, wheel, mechanism, motion, pen without will, man without mind.

He prefers not to copy, and so he does not really copy, despite the cheese, despite the fact that he must copy, that there is no other alternative in the rat maze cheese world but to copy for his due like a good little normal streetwalking human.
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Format: Paperback
Melville's darkly curious novella about a mysterious stranger who refuses to leave his place of employment--even when fired--is sublty compelling; the plot gradually moves forward in small, psychological increments. This story, which could just as well have
been set in Victorian London, is related by an elderly narrator--a lawyer with two regular sciveners (legal copists) and
an office boy. But the addition of the inscrutable, pallid Bartleby creates a sensation in the small office; he quietly but simply
refuses to do anything but copy documents--eventually carrying his disobedience to passive revolt. Yet he refuses to depart; he "Prefers not" to do anything but waste away in semi-public view. How can his decent and compassionate employer remove the unwanted fellow--without resorting to crass police action?

Melville's unchaptered tale is charactereized by long paragraphs and a rich tapestry of vccabulary. Less a mstyery than one at first expects the simple plot unfolds more as a comment on the role of humanity in a social setting. How easy it would be to quell our collective conscience by institutionalizing the social misfits! This may be the first literary example of Passive Resistance. With no clear-cut villain in this odd tale readers are left in moral disquiet; thought-provoking reading for insightful readers.

(January 8, 2014)
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am very glad I read this. It is very interesting on many levels. However, I cannot say it was really an artistic pleasure to read.

The story can be read from many standpoints. Was that the author's intention? I wish I knew. I do not know. Obviously, the story is written by Herman Melville. That alone makes it worth the effort in terms of the study of literature.

Bartley is pretty much the only character who is actually named. Certainly Herman Melville is sophisticated enough that I can assume that is intentional. I feel that a sense of isolation is created, by the author, amid an urban environment. Then we find Bartleby had worked in a "dead letter" office. It is my understanding that Mr. Melville himself was becoming a somewhat forgotten author in his own lifetime.

In the course of further study, I found that the story did not find immediate acclaim but has since become iconic. This is true with many works. "The Great Gadsby", which I truly love, comes to mind. But I had to read The Great Gadsby twice, and all of F. Scott Fitgerald's work in between, in order to really come to appreciate The Great Gadsby. I do not feel that way about this story. But I really enjoyed it as a reading experience. Thank You...
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The story is recounted many years after Bartleby has died by the narrator, a lawyer who has employed him (or maybe by Melville himself).

Well, this is Wall Street.

Bartleby is admitted as a copyist, a scrivener, in a very peculiar office. There, three employees are already working and each one has his strangeness.
The owner, our narrator, proclaims himself as a greedy man only interested in working with the rich men bonds.

To my surprise and, in my opinion, the owner is gentle - not exactly kind but extremely polite - incapable of violence and is too much drawn to the weirdness of his employees, respecting each one of them and letting them be and do as they wish (which for me, as an owner and a lawyer, would be rather impossible).

Bartleby confuses his employer as he uses 'I prefer not to', each time he is asked to do something other than copying.
It's rather than a negation of what his employer demands, more an assertion of his human choice.
Just to add some fire to this discussion, think about this: when Bartleby prefers not to, he pushes others onto doing something as he will not. As he affirms gently and kindly he prefers not to, or rather, as he holds forth his wish, he makes someone do it for him because the World and, specially Wall Street cannot be stopped.

Imagine, for just a moment, if the trio in the office did the same as Bartleby... Or even the lawyer... If they preferred not to, what would happen?

Bartleby simply 'preferred not to' just because Melville wanted the narrator, and us, to think about the possibility of someone who doesn't exist - or who doesn't want to exist - from the very beginning just because he insists, he affirms -- instead of negating -- that he preferred not to.
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