Lawyer's personal experience with the "squatter"

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In Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener, the narrator is stuck in a precarious situation. While this story is a little long for the type it is, to me it fels like Melville is doing a close reading in character development and playing with a staunch situation. Anyone can write about action, movement, things happening at a pace. But when you are staring at a brick wall for an hour, little changes. So Melville presents us with three completely different characters that are so peculiar, yet they do nothing. And the one dry, bland, virtually invisible character gets all the attention by the narrator.

In a short aside, I do like how Melville plays with the narrator's emotions and how they range in this story from like to dislike, anger to pity. And mostly all INSIDE his head.

4 Comments

Good observation, Michael.

Out of curiosity, who do you consider the three bland characters? There are five people in the office, counting Bartleby and the narrator.

It is interesting that Melville spends all the time introducing those three characters before the story. And there is that one old man, right at the beginning, they he spends a huge amount of time on that is not immediately relevant for the rest of the story. I felt that the amount of detail Melville put in to describe Nippers and Turkey was grossly overdone, but I think this is a reflection of the writers for the time: there seems to be some kind of insecurity behind the narrators that are afraid of anyone missing any point or raising any kind of question. Every little detail is presented, and even metaphors or symbolism is explained (like in "The Scarlet Letter"), not as a way of saying, "Hey, did you see what I did there?" but as a way of making sure their point got across.

I think he has to introduce them in depth to show that he is not just obsessed with Bartleby later.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael McCullough published on September 22, 2010 7:49 AM.

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