Change of Reaction

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"With any other man I should have flown outright into a dreadful passion, scorned all further words, and thrust him ignominiously from my presence.  But there was something about Bartleby that not only strangely disarmed me, but in a wonderful manner touched and disconcerted me" (Melville para. 35).

After reading this story, I looked back to see what I could blog about.  This stood out because Bartleby was asked to do something by his boss and he refused.  When that happens, it would take a lot to not get mad at the person who just told you that they weren't doing what you asked them to.  It seems to tell a lot about Bartleby and Melville.  Bartleby seems cold and stand offish, not caring what anyone says or wants him to do.  He seems numb.  Melville is also numb on the fact that he doesn't know what to do because people usually don't turn him down.

2 Comments

I agree, I also like that Melville points out that the speaker would probably have had a stronger reaction to Bartleby's refusal, had he shown any emotion in it. Rather than being insolent, or angry, or showing any emotion, Bartleby doesn't "refuse" to so something, he simply points out that he'd prefer not to...and then doesn't do it.

Be careful with the distinction between the author and the narrator. Melville did write this story, but he isn't really the narrator. A character he created is the narrator.

That aside, I agree that this situation does tell a lot about both characters. We get a good sense of who they are through all of this. In addition to what you already mentioned, Bartleby's refusal to do anything the narrator asks of him combined with his refusal to leave when asked both show that he is incredibly stubborn in. The narrator's inability to really follow through with any threat and to instead reach out to Bartleby show that he cares about him and may, to an extent, be a pushover.

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This page contains a single entry by JamieGrace published on September 20, 2009 2:05 PM.

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