Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville



Bartleby The Scrivener are a ridiculously significant modern tale from late 19th century which question morality and humanity that goes beyond the world of productivity and capitalism. As much as Melville drawing the humanism inspiration from Hawthorne in science, he did it by human ethics. In a simpler way of generalizing this book, this is one weird crazy book. They call this book an absurdist and existentialist fiction but I find its a lot harder to round up the author easily. I genuinely prefer the discussion on this book than the book itself because the book is confusing while reading but became more clear when you’ve find that its filled with metaphors on some kind.

The story is narrated by a lawyer who told a story of the most peculiar person he ever met; Bartleby. He had problems regarding his scriveners, Nipper and Turkey who have their own temperament which leads to the hiring of Bartleby. At first, he was a good and wonderful employee until one day when asked by the narrator to proofread a document, Bartleby would say “I would prefer not to”. The narrator let it slide until Bartleby grew increasingly unproductive and eccentric with his repetitive that he would prefer not to do everything asked by everyone even for his own well-being that it alarmed the narrator that he tried to persuade Bartleby to give a reason why but Bartleby would say continuously, “I would prefer not to”.

A scrivener is a copyist. You could say it is a modern equivalent of a xerox machine. While in this story, Bartleby became the main focus due to his persistence and curious way of conduct that frightened everyone around him.  He contrasted the world the narrator lived in. His depression became so infectious that the narrator who sympathize but fear him enough that he relocated his business after failing to nudge Bartleby to any form of work or life that Bartleby caused the tenants and new occupants trouble which lands him to even worst condition.

Some would consider Bartleby as a language and by his action, he became a verbal succubus sucking emotions around him just by his verbal persistence. He can also be seen as a victim of the modernity and this degradation began from his previous employment which the narrator sadly mourn the lost of humanity in him. The novel even question about the right of the living if only the living could choose to not proliferate under productivity. It also shows how being different can be misinterpreted if not being understood and in search of knowing, the narrator found himself unwittingly empathized with Bartleby who continued to eluded him by being passive until the narrator became helpless as it destroyed Bartleby from the inside. Maybe Bartleby aren’t meant to be understood nor to be saved but the situation around him are relevant in this time to ignore the underlying clues embedded inside the novella. Even still, it alludes me.


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