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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 this short story is very descriptive and is also slightly comical. One of the ways this is used is when the author gently mocks the narrator by having him expose his flaws through his own words. For example, when the narrator talks of John Jacob Astor, a well respected man who complemented him, we find out how full of himself he is and how highly he thinks of himself. "The late John Jacob Astor, a parsonage little given to poetic enthusiasm, had no hesitation in pronouncing my first grand point…I will freely add, that I was not insensible to the late John Jacob Astor's good opinion." (Page 122, Paragraph2) Another example of the author's use of diction appears on page 127 in paragraph 2; "At first, Bartleby did an extraordinary quantity of writing. As if long famished for something to copy, he seemed to gorge himself on my documents. There was no pause for digestion. He ran a day and night line, copying by sunlight and by candle-light. I should have been quite delighted with his application, had he been cheerfully industrious. But he wrote on silently, palely, mechanically." Here the narrator's description of Bartleby's writing habits in the office, at first, tell us that he is very pleased with his progress and the work he has done but then it tells us that he is not very enthusiastic but goes about his work like a robot with no communication with anyone else in the office. From this we can gather that the narrator's attitude towards Bartleby was of enthusiasm and pride but then changes mainly to sadness due to his lack of communication and cheerfulness to the others in the office. Diction is just one of the literary elements used in this short story which convey the narrator's attitude towards Bartleby.
Another literary element that is used to convey the narrator's attitude towards Bartleby is through point of view. In Bartleby, the Scrivener the point of view that is used is that of first person narration. By Melville's use of first person narration it allows us to get close to Bartleby but still be confused and in awe of him and since we see him through the eyes of his employer we can quickly identify with the narrator's confusing feelings over Bartleby. An example of this appears on page 127 in paragraph 6; "I sat awhile in perfect silence, rallying my stunned faculties. Immediately it occurred to me that my ears had deceived me, or Bartleby had entirely misunderstood my meaning. I repeated my request in the clearest tone I could...

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