- 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: 118 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street
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''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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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...
But now I think of him differently. Maybe it’s because I have more experiences in a journey/sailing of life than I had when I first encountered the Bartleby character. Whatever it may be, my perspective of the character has been changed in a humane way. Since I re-read the story this afternoon, I have felt bottomless sympathy for Bartleby. Mixed with pathos and sprinkles of humor in the narrative of his benevolent former employer, the figure of Bartleby evokes springs of human compassion and humanity itself. And my feelings for this tragic scrivener amount to what the narrator felt about his former employee.
I am not hereby intent on “analyzing” the psychological aspects of Bartleby and his former Wall Street lawyer boss. And I don’t think that even the writer Melville himself ascribed such psychoanalytical theory to these characters in mind when he wrote the story. To me the story itself tells what drove a sensitive man like Bartleby to such demise in the eyes of a compassionate man – and a decent employer seldom found these days. Loneliness, Hopelessness, Sorrow, and Reality of Death all packaged in letters to be burned in flames deprived the humanness of the forlorn scrivener. The Death of Humanity, that is. Having worked in the Office of Dead Letters at Washington must have been a traumatic experience to someone like Bartleby with eggshell sensitivity. Surely, there is no doubt that Bartleby was mentally disturbed, but who would hate or even despise him for his malaise?…
Readers will conclude that it’s only a fictional story in which no such characters will/would exist in reality. But I don’t think so. As a matter of fact, I have always believed that fictions are always built upon factual elements of human life to a certain degree. Dismissing stories as creations of imaginativeness seems to miss the fundamental truths laid behind the subject matters of stories. That the multitudes of change and choice of our human life with a bit of creative imaginations is a substance of any story. Ditto Stephen King, who has once said that the stories are artifacts that are not really made up, but that are based upon preexisting objects we discover. Ditto Shakespeare who once said we are all actors and actress on a stage called a “Life.”
The tall, lean, pallid and lugubrious image of Bartleby the Scrivener still lingers in my mind… All those returned/erturning letters flooded into the office every single day might have come from those who died in despair, those who died hopeless, and those who died suffocated by insurmountable sufferings; Bartleby had lost his own sense of existence, feeling utterly dispirited, pessimistic, and lethargic in performing demands of his duty. It was the loss of meaning of life that made him passively resistant to all the ordinary functions of daily life which all seemed insignificant to him. The life itself was nihilistic and hence non-existential to Bartleby. Humanity in the expressions of feelings and emotions meant nothing to him; it had ceased to exist in the form of dead letter attesting to existential horrors, which had led the authors to death, which had taken the poor Bartleby as the witness thereof.
Thus the lamentable outcry of the narrator still deeply reverberates in my mind even after I closed the book: “Ah, Bartleby! Ah, Humanity!”
Two quick words of advice, have a dictionary nearby to look up the various puzzling nouns, verbs, and adjectives Melville uses. Also, look up online videos or websites/blogs/articles that review Bartleby and can help you formulate your own ideas.
Learning the vocabulary and doing a bit of research is what leads you to find a truth that you can relate to and in turn makes disecting literature so interesting. This is a perfect story to learn lots from and to prepare you for other peices of literature.
Goodluck and happy reading !!
The story itself is about a scrivener named Bartleby who refuses any assignment given to him. When presented with a task, he simply replies by saying, "I would prefer not to." His boss tries to figure out a way to work with him to no avail. No matter how he is approached or what the request is, Bartleby simply replies with, "I'd prefer not to," and continues to do so until the end of the story.
I felt it was an interesting short story that makes a good point about how the work we do can effect our lives. It reminded me a bit of the movie, "Office Space." If you liked that movie, I'd recommend giving this a chance.