Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street
"Bartleby, the Scrivener" was written by Herman Melville in 1853, two years after Moby Dick had been published and his writing career was beginning ... Show synopsis "Bartleby, the Scrivener" was written by Herman Melville in 1853, two years after Moby Dick had been published and his writing career was beginning to lose its luster. Subtitled, "A Story of Wall Street," the book is a seemingly simple story about a lawyer who hires a gentleman named Bartleby as a scrivener in his office. In those long-ago days before copy machines, scriveners had the tedious job of hand-copying documents, sometimes over and over. Bartleby was good at the copying part of his job, but when asked to proofread aloud one day he simply replied, "I prefer not to." From that moment forward, he used the phrase "I prefer not to" for every task requested of him, eventually "preferring not to" do any work whatsoever. The lawyer, who is astounded by Bartleby's attitude, tells the story in the first person. The story is rich in language and yet spare in actual action. The reader is forced to think, and think seriously about the choices we make daily. Bartleby chose to rebel and become an anti-hero. But the real protagonist of the story is the lawyer, who is drawn into Bartleby's power and grows to admire him. The conclusion is sad, but inevitable. The story of Bartleby is simply about a man losing his will to live. It is intended to show the reader a dark side in all of us when the meaning of our existence is allowed to be challenged. The chilling image of Bartleby in his previous job at the Dead Letter Office, and the fact that Melville left Bartleby's reason for being (or not being) a mystery, all adds to the intrigue of "Bartleby, the Scrivener." First published anonymously Putnam's Monthly Magazine, "Bartleby, the Scrivener" reflects Melville's own pessimism at the time.