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Count Bartleby Character Analysis

1773 words - 7 pages

Bartleby is a strange man. The narrator refers to Bartleby as a “pale” man many times in “Bartleby the Scrivener”: “that pale young scrivener, by the name of Bartleby” (par. 83). Melville’s story was published in 1853 and he alludes to Bartleby having an essence that is not human, and that essence is of a vampire. Bartleby is not a traditional vampire, having no desire to kill humans for his insatiable need for blood. A traditional vampire has certain characteristics: pale, dead, clean, glamour#, and neat. They also drink blood, require no sleep, are in good health, and often keep to themselves. In the story, Melville depicts The Scrivener as an awkward human being, but Bartleby is not human. Through subtle cues given by Melville throughout the story, Bartleby must be a vampire.
Bartleby’s appearance is congruent with the physical characteristics of a vampire. The Scrivener is described as having gray eyes, pale face, small build, never ill, does not eat, and does not move outside of the narrators office: “I was quite sure he never visited any refectory or eating house” (par. 92). Bartleby was never seen eating food. He was seen eating ginger nuts, but never anything else. Vampires can eat food that humans do, but they ordinarily only require human blood. Although food does not hurt vampires, they can eat food if they so desire; it does not give them the nutrients that are needed to survive. No one in the story ever saw Bartleby eat or drink anything besides ginger nuts, which means that he does not require food, but something more nutritious. He could have possibly desired human blood.
The Scrivener’s attributes shine through in some of the narrators comments: “[…] pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn!” (par. 15).The narrator indicates that Bartleby is “pallidly neat”. This is only the first instance in which the narrator refers to Bartleby as “pale”. Vampires are the living dead, which means that they have no heartbeat and have no circulating blood in their bodies. Therefore, have no color to their skin whatsoever. The narrators constant use of the word “pale”, and related forms, indicates a certain level of importance, and that Bartleby is no longer living. “Pitiably respectable” is another word that alludes to Bartleby having the ability to glamour other humans. Glamour is used by vampires to seduce their prey (humans). Once glamour is used against a human, then humans must do what they are asked regardless of consequence. Bartleby uses his glamour to gain the position as scrivener so he could have a place to stay. Right away, the narrator enjoys Bartleby’s company: “glad to have him among my corps of copyists” (par. 16). The narrator also says that Bartleby is “incurably forlorn”. Vampires have an innate dreariness and sadness about them. Bartleby exuded a “forlorn” personality through his appearance which coincides with traditional vampire characteristics.
Bartleby also worked his glamour on the narrator on a...

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