Bartleby The Scrivener, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (14 ratings)

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Showing 1 - 5 of 14 reviews.

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Review by
4

Delightfully high concept.

Review by
4

A scrivener, Bartleby, is trapped in the soul-killing monotony of his job, a job that leads a co-worker to get soused every day at lunch. After a while, Bartleby starts refusing his assigned work, but in turning away from his tasks he doesn’t turn to doing anything else. His rebellion is passive – staring at the brick walls that enclose him and the others on Wall Street, he becomes a standing rebuke of superficial ‘busy-ness’, a rebuke from which his employer eventually flees.I appreciated this story more after reading Mordecai Marcus’ interpretation of it (‘Melville’s Bartleby as a Psychological Double’, College English 23 [1962]: 365-8). Marcus sees Bartleby as his employer’s ‘double’. That is, this recalcitrant worker is a part of the lawyer’s own psyche, one that suffers neglect in the urban office. Something essential to its sustenance is missing. Obdurate in the face of all monetary enticements, this increasingly spectral other can't fit its assigned place in the urban business hub. It belongs to nature, the lawyer’s own nature, and is marooned in 'unnature' (Wall Street). Naturally, it withers in this world of material plenty.The story reminds me of Theodore Roethke's poem 'Dolor', with its lines about 'the inexorable sadness of pencils' and 'desolation in immaculate public places'.

Review by
4

Read this in a Lit class, loved it... still struggling with Moby Dick,of course, I'll finish it one of these days.

Review by
5

Reason for Reading: I've decided to try Melville House's Novella book club for 6 months and plan to read the two selections, the month following their arrival. Hence this is my second January read.I was not actually looking forward to this. I once tried to read "Moby Dick" and failed miserably. I cannot recall if I've run across Melville in anthologies but if I have obviously it is not something that I've remembered. Melville's writing style is a touch difficult for me and I found this a bit difficult to get into with the first several pages long-winded. However, this changed quite rapidly and I became quite smitten with this story and must say it was not Bartleby I was most intrigued with but the narrator. Bartleby is a most curious fellow, one who starts work in his position as a copyist, but gentlemanly refuses to do any other work by politely saying "I prefer not to." to any such requests. Only speaking when spoken to, this solitary man seems to always be present at work and when not working diligently is seen standing staring into space or out the window at a view of a brick wall. His condition deteriorates until he eventually "prefers not to" work at all, leave the premises, or be let go from his position. He becomes a peculiar, perhaps mentally unbalanced, perhaps supernaturally guided (what does he live upon?) character.However, I found my interest laying mostly with the character of the narrator, a lawyer, the Master in Chancery for the state of New York. At first impressed with his new employee's fast and diligent output of quality work, he starts to notice the man's peculiarities. When Bartleby virtually refuses to engage in any other work than copying the lawyer is flummoxed, leaving him be and making up reasons for the man's behaviour. This is in character with the lawyer though as he has done the same with his two other employees, one who is disagreeable in the mornings, the other in the afternoons. The lawyer has learned to work around this and sympathize with the men by inventing character flaws and health reasons for their behaviour. Bartleby, however, becomes unfathomable and yet the lawyer continues to show him kindness and think the best of him. Things become intense though once the lawyer finds Bartleby in dishabille in his chambers early one morning, doors locked from the inside and the lawyer finds that he is allowing himself to walk around the block several times upon Bartleby's orders. From this point on Bartelby becomes the one with the power and the lawyer eventually must leave his own chambers and move elsewhere to be rid of the man; this then starts a downward spiral of events for Bartleby which he can no longer control nor the lawyer's aid be accepted.I found this story entirely intriguing and a curious look into the human condition. I honestly don't know what to make of it; what is the point or moral being made here. Even though I don't share this viewpoint, I do feel that many readers may find themselves siding with Bartelby and perhaps finding this a story of the downward drudgery of the clerical worker's monotonous plight. But I felt Bartelby went into this position with a chip on his shoulder and I see it more of a psychological tale of how the lawyer tries to help someone who obviously is in need of help both socially and mentally and yet there is only so much one can do to help another when they are unwilling to help themselves. Thought-provoking.

Review by
4

I tried to write a review, but I'd prefer not to.

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