The narrator, an elderly, unnamed Manhattan lawyer with a comfortable business, already employs two scriveners, Nippers and Turkey, to copy legal documents by hand. An increase in business leads him to advertise for a third, and he hires the forlorn-looking Bartleby in the hope that his calmness will soothe the irascible temperaments of the other two.
At first, Bartleby produces a large volume of high-quality work, but one day, when asked to help proofread a document, Bartleby answers with what soon becomes his perpetual response to every request: "I would prefer not to". To the dismay of the lawyer and the irritation of the other employees, Bartleby performs fewer and fewer tasks and eventually none, instead spending long periods of time staring out one of the office's windows at a brick wall. The narrator makes several futile attempts to reason with Bartleby and to learn something about him; when the narrator stops by the office one Sunday morning, he discovers that Bartleby has started living there.
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About the Author
Born in New York City, he was the third child of a merchant in French dry-goods who went bankrupt. After the death of his father in 1832, his formal education stopped abruptly and the young man briefly became a schoolteacher. He then signed on as a common sailor for a merchant voyage to Liverpool in 1839. A year and a half into his first whaling voyage, in 1842 he jumped ship in the Marquesas Islands, where he lived among the natives for a up to a month. He described these experiences in his first book, "Typee" (1846), a best-seller, as was the sequel, "Omoo" (1847). The same year Melville married Elizabeth Knapp Shaw; their four children were all born between 1849 and 1855.
In August 1850, Melville moved to a farm near Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he established a profound but short-lived friendship with Nathaniel Hawthorne. "Moby-Dick" (1851) was not welcomed by readers or reviewers, and the cool reception of "Pierre" (1852) put an end to his career as a popular author. From 1853 to 1856 he wrote short fiction for magazines, collected as "The Piazza Tales" (1856). In 1857, Melville voyaged to England and the Near East and "The Confidence-Man" appeared, the last prose work published during his lifetime. From then on Melville turned to poetry. Having secured a position of Customs Inspector in New York, his poetic reflection on the Civil War appeared as "Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War" (1866).
Date of Birth:August 1, 1819
Date of Death:September 28, 1891
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Place of Death:New York, New York
Education:Attended the Albany Academy in Albany, New York, until age 15
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A fantastic story. A true classic from Herman Melville. Really enjoyable.
To: Mr. Rowe, English 11 Herman Melville’s "Bartleby the Scrivener" mixes comedy and reality with absurdity and superfluous behavior. Bartleby, the main character, is a unique individual who has complete disconnect from reality. His oblivious behavior and style is a testament to this. He eats nothing but chestnuts and has no engagement with sleep. On the contrary, he keeps the book interesting by displaying his lack of respect toward authority. He would “prefer not to”. The story is based upon the theme of absurdity with reality. Bartleby was chosen by the narrator, a law firm owner, to be his assistant scrivener (law copier) because of his work ethic and reposed behavior. However, unfortunately Bartleby decides to stay content with doing nothing, literally nothing; standing in the corner of the room all day and night. It is recommended that this piece of literature be on your bucket list as a part of America’s great and iconic literary works. Melville truly captured absurdity in "Bartleby the Scrivener".
The writing is NOTHING like Moby Dick. Really an interesting short story!
Unfortunately, I was never able to open the book once I paid for it. This seems to be an ongoinng problem when I purchase anything through this site. I was forced to go elsewhere and purchase the book in paperback. The book itself was very good.