Bartleby - The Scrivener

Bartleby - The Scrivener : A Story of Wall-Street

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-Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street- (1853) is a short story by the American writer Herman Melville, first serialized anonymously in two parts in the November and December editions of Putnam's Magazine, and reprinted with minor textual alterations in his The Piazza Tales in 1856. The story of the lawyer-narrator who cannot bring himself to remove from his office the silent scrivener (save for the repeated phrase -I would prefer not to-), who neither works nor eats, has always fascinated both readers and critics. Numerous essays are published on what according to scholar Robert Milder -is unquestionably the masterpiece of the short fiction- in the Melville canon. The narrator, an elderly, unnamed Manhattan lawyer with a very comfortable business, relates the story of the strangest man he has ever known: Bartleby. At the start of his chronicle, the lawyer 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 to the irritation of the other employees, Bartleby performs fewer and fewer tasks, and eventually none. The narrator makes several futile attempts to reason with him and to learn something about him; and when he stops by the office unexpectedly, he discovers that Bartleby has started living there. Tension builds as business associates wonder why Bartleby is always there. Sensing the threat of ruined reputation but emotionally unable to evict Bartleby, the narrator finally decides to move out himself. Soon the new tenants come to ask for help: Bartleby still will not leave-he now sits on the stairs all day and sleeps in the building's doorway. The narrator visits him and attempts to reason with him, and surprises even himself by inviting Bartleby to come live with him. But Bartleby -would prefer not to.- Later the narrator returns to find that Bartleby has been forcibly removed and imprisoned in The Tombs. The narrator visits him. Finding Bartleby even glummer than usual, he bribes a turnkey to make sure Bartleby gets enough food. But when he returns a few days later, he discovers that Bartleby has died of starvation, having apparently preferred not to eat. Some time afterward, 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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Product details

  • Paperback | 40 pages
  • 178 x 254 x 2mm | 86g
  • English
  • Illustrations, black and white
  • 1502577046
  • 9781502577047

About Herman Melville

Herman Melville (August 1, 1819 - September 28, 1891) was an American novelist, writer of short stories, and poet from the American Renaissance period.
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46,745 ratings
3.93 out of 5 stars
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4 37% (17,523)
3 22% (10,421)
2 6% (2,732)
1 2% (906)
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