Bartleby The Scrivener - personal review by LC
Bartleby, the Scrivener
The novel "Bartleby, The Scrivener. A Story of Wall Street" is another great piece of literature by Herman Melville. The whole story is written through a first person narrator, or I point of view, and it is told as it was seen through the eyes of a very successful elderly lawyer in New York's law office, who is narrating the story. One day when the he puts an ad into papers, one very strange applicant comes to the company. It is Bartleby, who seems in narrator's eyes as immediate success. He is hired as a new scrivener because with his great qualifications he would be a perfect employee for his company. He is a very quiet man who at first does an extraordinary quantity of writing. Bartleby the Scrivener and his favorite sentence "I would prefer not to" become a great issue that only results in a discrete anonymity and a total misunderstanding of his character.
As author said at the beginning, Bartleby was "the strangest he ever saw and heard of", and so even the life of his new scrivener remains unrevealed. Together with Bartleby there are two more scriveners in narrator's company, and one office-boy. Narrator gives us a perfect picture on each of his co-workers, describing their vices, virtues and habits. Turkey, who is the short, fat Englishman about the age of 60, is the precise and hardworking morning person. In opposition to him there is Nippers, who was only 25 years old but was unable to work in mornings. They both has always been very valuable workers and they practically did what they were expected to do. But the narrator is unable to tell us more about Bartleby because he is a great mystery for himself.
As it was a custom, every copy that has been made has to be examined for the accuracy by other scriveners. But one day when Bartleby is asked to come and join the examination he replies with the simple answer "I would prefer not to". Initially it has not been an issue, until Bartleby becomes so narrow-minded that he isolates himself from the others, and stops doing his work. The narrator is made to dissolve him from the company's premises just to not to lose his great reputation among other lawyers. Bartleby does not want to leave the office and as a man of word he keeps on saying his sentence "I would prefer not to", which with the arrival of the new tenant in premises gets him into prison for a disobedience. Bartleby does not accept the help of the narrator, who comes to the prison to make sure that Bartleby is taken care of, and he dies there, misunderstood.
Melville worked with terminology of law society, that was far from everyday language and so it was sometimes difficult for me to understand. The whole life of Bartleby was one great mystery for both narrator and for me as the reader. This novel was a tragic story of one poor man who did not want to change his mind and remained the same through the whole story. Bartleby's character was quite confusing because he limited his expressions to only one sentence, and so my initial thought was he did not understand what others were saying. On one side he has not disobeyed any rules, but his isolated behavior was too unusual to be overseen. It was interesting to read on and still not to be able to get the complete picture of Bartleby. Mr. Melville knew what he was doing when he was writing this novel, because he wanted to make us think more about other people who do not get enough of our attention and so they easily become misunderstood or even anonymous.