This website uses cookies to ensure you have the best experience. Learn more

Herman Melville's Bartleby, The Scrivener Essay

3556 words - 14 pages

Herman Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrivener"

The narrator states fairly early on in Herman Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrivener" that both he and Bartleby are "sons of Adam" (55). The phrase plays on a double entendre, referring to both the Calvinist Biblical Eden and to the view of America as the "new Eden." Many recent critics have traced the biblical aspects of this and other elemen ts of the story, claiming the character of Bartleby as a Christ-figure, and as such carries out the role of a redeemer.1 The story, however, is not Bartleby's, but rather the narrator's. "Bartleby" is simultaneously a biography about a scriven er and an autobiography about an entrepreneur, and Melville uses this narrative to attack the mythology previous autobiographers such as Benjamin Franklin created concerning the archetypal, self-made American man -- the new sons of Adam. For Melville, it was a mythology and persona that no longer applied because it supported a burgeoning class of capitalists, destined in the future to become the "robber barons," who placed a higher value on the utilitarian ethics espoused by Franklin than on humanity. This "Adam" with whom the narrator identifies, becomes at once both the Biblical Adam and R. W. B. Lewis' "American Adam." And through this new-fallen Adam, Melville condemns those character traits most valued by early American autobiographers like Franklin.

"I know of no Character living nor many of them put together, who has so much in his powers as Thyself to promote a greater Spirit of Industry and early Attention to Business, Frugality, and Temperance with American Youth " wrote Abel James in a letter to urge Franklin on with the Autobiography(Franklin 134). This somewhat prophetic letter announces what would eventually become the foundations of Republican value and Republican virtue. And Lewis in his preeminent work The American Adam identifies characteristics of the archetypal literary figure who became the model for the American ethos.

The new habits to be engendered on the new American scene were suggested by the image of a radically new personality, the hero of the new adventure: an individual emancipated from history, happily bereft of ancestry, untouched and undefiled by the usual inheritances of family and race; and individual standing alone, self-reliant and self propelling, ready to confront whatev er awaited him with the aid of his own unique and inherent resources. ...His moral position was prior to experience, and in his very newness he was fundamentally innocent. (Lewis 5)

Relatively early in his life, Franklin rejected his familial bonds and struck out on his own. He writes in part one of his Autobiography:2 "At length a fresh Difference arising between my brother and me, I took upon me to assert my Freedom, presuming that he would not venture to produce new indentures" (70). The remainder of part one details the various adv entures he undertakes, the mistakes he made -- or "errata" as he...

Find Another Essay On Herman Melville's Bartleby, the Scrivener

The Plight of the Common Man in Herman Melville's Bartleby, the Scrivener

4414 words - 18 pages individual sovereignty in his short story "Bartleby the Scrivener"; through the actions and the attitudes of the elite narrator in the story, the deceptiveness of democracy is evident. The ideology of democracy purports that all men are created equal and are equally represented in the voice of government. Yet, the scriveners as common men are separated from the elite narrator who creates the walls of exclusion in order to perpetuate the myth of

Comparing Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and Herman Melville's Bartleby, The Scrivener

1022 words - 5 pages When we examine the excerpt by Ralph Ellison, “Invisible Man” and the story “Bartleby, The Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” by Herman Melville we see how they both explore isolation, but in different ways. Similarly, they are both solitary characters where Bartleby seems to choose this situation; the Invisible Man has this status thrust on him by society. Where the Invisible Man seems to go from violence to acceptance, the opposite

Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener": Humorous or Tragic?

943 words - 4 pages If ever there are two opposite themes offered in the telling of one tale, it is in Herman Melville's short story, "Bartleby the Scrivener". As his perspective swings between the objective and subjective, so swings the theme from comedy to tragedy. Regardless of the two perspectives from which Herman Melville relates the story of Bartleby, the telling of a tragic story with humorous subjectivity, the story's plot and outcome determines the

Herman Melville's now famous story "Bartleby the Scrivener". Melville wrote this, just after he wrote Moby Dick

1091 words - 4 pages . This only supports Melville's beliefs in transcendentalism. If Bartleby had no place in society, than perhaps Melville also felt that his place in society was diminishing.I find that in the case of Bartleby the Scrivener, Melville is incorporating his own feelings towards the characters of Bartleby and the Lawyer. In Bartleby the Scrivener, Herman Melville tries to relate the reader to his declining situation as a writer. He uses the narrator as

Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville

980 words - 4 pages Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville Herman Melville, an American novelist and major literary figure explored psychological themes in many of his works. Herman Melville was born in 1819 in New York City into an established merchant family. The family's fortune had taken a decline that led to bankruptcy and caused insanity to enter into his father's Life. Through his writing, Melville recreated a part of life that

"Bartleby, the scrivener" by Herman Melville

696 words - 3 pages Have you ever tried to provide help for someone who refused it at the end? There is no doubt that the help becomes meaningless, even though the person is really eager to give a hand. In the short story "Bartleby, the scrivener" by Herman Melville, the narrator, a lawyer, who was considered as an "eminently safe man" (56). He dealt with the business that took few risks and believed that the easiest path in life was always the best. The lawyer was

Bartleby, the Scrivener a Short Story Written by Herman Melville

2117 words - 8 pages , 28 September 2013. Web. 18 April 2014. Giles, Todd. "Melville's BARTLEBY, THE SCRIVENER." Explicator 65.2 (2007): 88-91. Web. 17 March 2014. Melville, Herman. “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” Literature to Go. Ed. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2011. 101-129. Print. Sundararajan, Louise. Being as Refusal: Melville's Bartleby as Heideggerian Anti-Hero. Janus Head: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, 1990. Web. 19 April 2014.

A Capitalist World in Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville

888 words - 4 pages , Steven. "The Prudent Samaritan: Melville's 'Bartleby, The Scrivener' As Parody Of Christ's Parable To The Lawyer." Studies In Short Fiction 34.3 (1997): 357-61. Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 Apr. 2014. Melville, Herman. “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th ed. Nina Baym and Robert S. Levine. Vol. B. New York: Norton, 2012. 1483-1509. Print.

Weak Authority in Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville

1419 words - 6 pages In Bartleby the Scrivener; the lawyer, also the narrator, had power over Bartleby in the beginning of the story by hiring him; but then slowly the power diminishes and it causes Bartleby to have power over the lawyer, when he starts replying to everything the lawyer asks of him to with “I would prefer not to.” He doesn’t say “I will not” which confuses the lawyer who takes it as a simple “no.” The lawyer appears to be a kind man that tries to

Themes of Hopelessness in Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener

1231 words - 5 pages We can never be one hundred percent certain of the validity of our literary analyses. This is especially the case with Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener”. Critics have been trying for decades to make sense of the text and most will describe it as “inscrutable”. I don’t claim to know better than the critics, but instead offer my own interpretation of the work. Based on my observations and analysis, Melville’s use of many elements in his

DEFENSE MECHANISM OF BARTEBLY’S PERSONALITY IN SHORT STORY BARTLEBY THE SCRIVENER BY HERMAN MELVILLE

3251 words - 13 pages refuses to deal with or encounter unpleasant objects or situations until he stays away from people or situations that are liable to make us anxious by stirring up some unconscious-i.e., repressed-experience or emotion.C. AnalysisOne area of human behavior explored in Herman Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener that has important implications for psychoanalytic criticism is found in the behavior of Bartleby portrayed in the short stories. Bartleby's

Similar Essays

Herman Melville's Bartleby The Scrivener Essay

554 words - 2 pages Bartleby- The Scrivener In Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener”, the author uses several themes to convey his ideas. The three most important themes are alienation, man’s desire to have a free conscience, and man’s desire to avoid conflict. Melville uses the actions of an eccentric scrivener named Bartleby, and the responses of his cohorts, to show these underlying themes to the reader. The first theme, alienation, is displayed best by

Herman Melville's Bartleby The Scrivener Essay

554 words - 2 pages The extremely simplified definition of civil disobedience given by Webster’s Dictionary is “nonviolent opposition to a law through refusal to comply with it, on grounds of conscience.” Thoreau in “Civil Disobedience” and Martin Luther King in “Letter from Birmingham Jail” both argue that laws thought of as unjust in one’s mind should not be adhered to. In Herman Melville’s “Bartleby,” a man named Bartleby is thought of by many to be

Herman Melville's Story, Bartleby, The Scrivener

1002 words - 4 pages In Herman Melville's short story, Bartleby, the Scrivener, the narrator's attitude towards Bartleby is constantly changing, the narrator's attitude is conveyed through the author's use of literary elements such as; diction-descriptive and comical, point of view-first person, and tone-confusion and sadness. One of the literary elements that Melville uses that convey the narrator's attitude towards Bartleby is diction. The author's diction in

Herman Melville's Bartlevy, The Scrivener Essay

1286 words - 6 pages “Bartleby, the Scrivener”, is both intriguing and complex. This short story written in the first person sense by Herman Melville, introduces the character of a no-name lawyer who serves as the narrator of the story. This lawyer is perplexed by an employed scrivener working in his office named, Bartleby. It is interesting to look at the relationship that the lawyer has to Bartleby both psychologically and emotionally. While the narrator seems