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Bartleby The Scrivener: Lawyer Double Essay

1074 words - 4 pages

Bartleby the Scrivener, by Herman Melville is a novella about a nameless lawyer who has in his employ a scrivener named Bartleby. Bartleby, throughout the novella, has different periods of work. In the beginning, he does his scrivening without reprimand or without hesitation, but as the novella progresses his attitude toward work changes drastically. Mordecai Marcus’ critical essay on the novella makes some good points, such that Bartleby is a psychological double for the lawyer, he represents a subliminal death drive within himself, and the conflict between absolutism and free will. All three of these points are attributed to Bartleby because he represents each respectively.
In Mordecai Marcus’ critical essay on Bartleby the Scrivener, he takes the stand that Bartleby is a psychological double for the nameless lawyer. While progressing through the novella, Bartleby begins to slow down and eventually stops working altogether. The Lawyer doesn’t know what to do mainly because, “Bartleby’s power over the lawyer quickly grows as the story progresses.” (Marcus 1) When the lawyer first hired Bartleby, he was a tenacious young worker, “There was no pause for digestion. He ran a day and night line, copying by sunlight and by candlelight.” (Melville 16) This is in the beginning of the novella right after the lawyer had hired him. Bartleby, to the lawyer, doesn’t seem to have any other ambitions rather than scrivening for him. But all of that begins to change when Bartleby begins to not want to do some of the tasks the lawyer asks him to do. The first instance of this is when he is asked to proofread one of the copies he just completed, “…rapidly stating what it was I wanted him to do – namely, to examine a small paper with me…Bartleby, in a singularly mild, firm voice, replied, ‘I would prefer not to.’” (Melville 17) This is a perfect example of how the lawyer’s power over Bartleby is starting to diminish and most likely be unable to come back at all. In the middle of the novella, Bartleby’s power over the rest of the office is greatly apparent in that both Nippers and Turkey begin saying “prefer”, “Prefer not, eh? Gritted Nippers – ‘I’d prefer him, if I were you sir,’” (Melville 36) This example of how the others in the office, besides the lawyer, are affected by the sheer presence of Bartleby is an appropriate testament to the amount of power Bartleby has acquired throughout the novella. He has been able to change the words both Nippers and Turkey use without actually telling them. Bartleby’s power, by the middle of the novella is already much greater than that of the lawyer. Toward the end of the novella, when Bartleby is in Jail, the lawyer has no power over Bartleby because there is nothing that he can do. All he can do is watch him die, with the death of Bartleby being the ultimate example of the lack of power the lawyer had over Bartleby.
Marcus’ essay also states, toward the end of the essay, that “Bartleby has partially represented a...

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