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 help Bartleby, but he actually is a weak owner of a business and has no power over his employees. He could have saved Bartleby if he would have just faced the problem instead of running away to another office.
In the story the author makes Bartleby appear to be a defiant character, but he is actually a man who suffered from repetitive and boring working in the dead-letter office. Bartleby's tenure at the dead-letter office most probably caused him to go mad and into isolation. The lawyer tried to help Bartleby, but he refused every time and ultimately dies under the tree in prison. Bartleby is a symbol of isolation; whereas the lawyer is a symbol of weak authority and Herman Melville, author of the book, himself.
Melville wrote the novel after he realized his career was on the verge of a break down, yet instead of Melville facing his troubles and the difficulties he ran to Europe. Such behavior can be linked to the fact that the lawyer also ran from the office when he didn’t know how to deal with Bartleby; but he chose not to face the situation and be the authority that he was. The lawyer did try to help Bartleby in the beginning, but I see it as a charity case; and that the lawyer only did so for to relieve his own conscience, because if the lawyer indeed did want to help Bartleby he would have never left for another office.
Turkey, Nippers, and Gingerhut are the three other employers of the lawyer; Turkey and Nippers are copyists that only work good half of the day, and Ginger Nut brings food for employees in the office. Turkey is the oldest of them and works productively in the morning but during the evening he becomes aggravated and makes mistakes in his work. Nippers is the opposite of Turkey; for he is young and works best in the evening and in the morning he complains of stomach problems and doesn’t do his job correctly. Ginger Nut makes errands for the copyists and lawyers and brings them food, and the name Ginger Nut came from the fact that he is often sent to bring them ginger nut cakes. The lawyer does not only tolerate Bartleby’s weird behavior, but also tolerates his other employees who seem to not do their job correctly like they are supposed to. As people we have learned that work is work and if you can’t do your job then you find another one, or your fired, yet the lawyer allowed such things to happen.
Literary critics for a long time have been trying to find out the relationship between Bartleby and his employer. The lawyer at the end finds out that he was a clerk at the dead letter...