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Bartleby the scrivener

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Fran González

on 4 January 2013

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Transcript of Bartleby the scrivener

Do you think Melville had Cain's response in mind?

Melville wanted to do a critic of the society.
He related Cain & Abel's story to the society he lived in.
Selfishness was the main point.
Why is the narrator so fascinated by Bartleby?
This is a story told by a first person narrator
The Lawyer represents Melville's readers.
Bartleby figure "He has a respectable and incurable figure"
Bartleby does not eat.
Bartleby's death is "an irreparable loss to literature" Can you explain the strange relationship between
the two men?

The relationship between them become more and more surreal.
The affection, curious declarations and murder wishes alternate in his head.
Bartleby becomes the lawyer's center of his life.
They represent two sides: the common sense and the will to choose what to do. Could the fact that the narrator is an older man without
a family be taken into consideration?

The narrator has a profound sense of misplaced responsability and feels a paternal obligation to look out of Bartleby.
The lawyer shows a genuine human compassion beyond what is expected in an employer-employee relationship.
However, feelings of responsability and sympathy could be because of his age, and a fear of being alone for ever. The lawyer wants to care for his friend.
Theme of death is apparent throughout the story which would inevitably affect the relationship between the older lawyer and Bartleby. Do you believe that Bartleby was beyond help?

Since the beginning, the narrator portrays Bartleby as a person who seems already dead: he is described as one would describe a corpse or a ghost: “I can see that figure now pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn”.
Bartleby’s eccentric behavior shows various signs of mental problems. The other characters observe that Bartleby wrote “mechanically”, “has no appetite, no friends or family”, was “absolutely alone in the universe” and that “his eccentricities are involuntary”.
Despite the lawyer’s efforts Bartleby refuses to conform, and instead by repeating the statement “I would prefer not to”, he becomes more and more passive, detaching himself from the world step by step. Bartleby slowly gives in to his internal apathy which eventually leads to his death. Could the lawyer have saved him?

The lawyer could not have saved him.
In the whole story little clues are hidden, which point to the end.
His death is announced, on several occasions. His "I would prefer not to" turn Bartleby all instructions of his employer in "dead letters".

Should the lawyer have tried harder?

The lawyer gave a lot of opportunities to Bartleby.
But, does he make all the possible to save him?
Finally, he does it.
Full transcript