Herman Melville (August 1, 1819 - September 28, 1891) was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick. His first three books gained much contemporary attention (the first, Typee, becoming a bestseller), but after a fast-blooming literary success in the late 1840s, his popularity declined precipitously in the mid-1850s and never recovered during his lifetime.
Bartleby, The Scrivenerby Herman Melville
The narrator, an elderly, unnamed Manhattan lawyer with a comfortable business, already employs two scriveners to copy legal documents by hand, Nippers and Turkey. 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 staring for long periods of time at a brick wall just outside one of the office's windows. The narrator makes several futile attempts to reason with him and to learn something about him; when he stops by the office one Sunday morning, he discovers that Bartleby has started living there.
Tension builds as business associates wonder why Bartleby is always there. Sensing the threat to his reputation but emotionally unable to evict Bartleby, the narrator moves his business out. Soon the new tenants come to ask for help in removing Bartleby, who now sits on the stairs all day and sleeps in the building's doorway at night. The narrator visits him and attempts to reason with him, and surprises even himself by inviting Bartleby to come live with him, but Bartleby declines the offer. Later the narrator returns to find that Bartleby has been forcibly removed and imprisoned in the Tombs. Finding Bartleby glummer than usual during a visit, the narrator bribes a turnkey to make sure he gets enough food. When the narrator returns a few days later to check on Bartleby, he has died of starvation, having preferred not to eat.
Some time afterwards, the narrator hears a rumor that Bartleby had worked in a dead letter office and reflects that dead letters would have made anyone of Bartleby's temperament sink into an even darker gloom. The story closes with the narrator's resigned and pained sigh, "Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!".
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- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.05(d)
- Age Range:
- 14 - 18 Years
Meet the Author
- 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
- Attended the Albany Academy in Albany, New York, until age 15
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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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.