September 25, 2005

Bartleby the Scrivener

"I mean no mischief, seek the gratification of no heartless curiosity, thought I; besides, the desk is mine, and its contents too, so I will make bold to look within"

The Lawyer said this after he finally makes a move to say something to Bartleby. I think that both men were at fault for why both of them ended up completely unhappy.

After reading Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville, I have come to realize that people seem to take advantage of the others willing to help them out. Bartleby does great work, then "prefers not to" do any work, then constantly "prefers not to" do anything but freeload off of the Lawyer/Narrator. I am really struggling to look at this in a gender perspective, except for the idea that all of the characters were male. All of them were not very good at what they did: Turkey, Ginger Nut, and Nippers. But, it seems to me that Bartleby was worst of all because he didn't give the work a shot.

I don't know, maybe I can't seem to find a gender issue in this particular story, all I can find is the symbolism behind Bartleby. Mainly Bartleby being the man who represents all who take advantage of the ones who are willing to try and work hard. At the same time, maybe people just need to be ordered to do something. If I told my father as a young kid that "I would prefer not to," he would say, "I'm not asking again" or "I'm not asking you, I'm telling you."
(Then I would go do it).

That is at least what I got from the text...what about you?

Posted by The Gentle Giant at September 25, 2005 10:10 PM

What is interesting, though, is that the lawyer, Turkey, and Nippers did start to become forceful to Bartleby and to no avail. He was told, repeatedly, to leave and do work yet he remained stationary even when the others "ganged up" on him. I bet they could have screamed until they were blue and it wouldn't have mattered much to Bartleby. Even the authorities couldn't make the man move from the office. He was certainly a man that, once his mind was made up, he wasn't about to change it.

Posted by: Nessa at September 26, 2005 12:14 PM

i looked at bartleby from a sort of different aspect than you did. i didn't look at him as a freeloader, but rather as a good worker. the other men always were causing "trouble" of some sort or in a bad mood and making ginger nut run out and do errands for them. bartleby simply sat in solitude and did his work from day to night.

i favored bartleby, but i'm not sure why.

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Posted by: lauren etling at September 26, 2005 06:50 PM

On one hand, I agree with Lauren. I thought that in the beginning, when Bartleby was working hard for the lawyer, that he wasn't a bad guy. He was different, but not harmful.

However, my opinion changed to one similar to yours when he completely stopped working, yet still expected to be allowed to stay. (Well, I suppose he wasn't one to seek permission, anyway.)

Posted by: Valerie Masciarelli at September 26, 2005 09:38 PM

I'm sorry lauren, but I feel the same way as Valerie. I really thought that Bartleby was a genuine character in the beginning. Please notice too Lauren, is the other men became violent when they had to do Bartleby's work. I really thought he was going to be the protagonist, but in the end, I view him in an opposite manner.

Posted by: Jason Pugh at September 26, 2005 10:16 PM

I agree. Bartleby and the Lawyer are both at fault. Bartleby should have been willing to do more to earn his keep. However, the Lawyer should know when he has been completely taken advantage of and when he should move on.

This may be the first time that we agreed on the fact that there should not be any sympathy given to these characters. (I still feel bad for Dimmesdale though.)

Posted by: Stacy at September 28, 2005 08:28 PM
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