This is a story about a successful lawyer who is in need of an assistant. Due to this situation he hires a scrivener to assist in the daily operations at the law firm. Bartleby is the lucky candidate who is hired. Initially, he is a quiet efficient and anti social man. He works well as a scrivener but completely refuses to do any other jobs within the office (Melville, 2009). The other employees are shocked at his conscious refusal to be versatile but there is little they can do because it is his personal choice and h is good at his official duties. He is ever in the office whether he is working or just starring out in the window until later on we realize that he actually leaves in the office. It reaches a point when he completely refuses to work in the office and prefers to stay there and laze around. He is finally asked to leave but he does not.
The lawyer decides to go and practice elsewhere after his attempts to remove Bartley from the office bore no fruits. New tenants move into the building and find out that Bartleby is part and parcel of the place. They decide to complain to the Lawyer who tells them that Bartleby is not his responsibility any more. The new occupants decided to bring in the police who arrest Bartleby bringing the story to an end with Bartleby in prison. While in prison, Bartleby prefers not to do anything and also prefers not to eat. The Lawyer ends up visiting him in prison but cannot reach the now withdrawn and strange copyist (Melville, 2010). With all these, Bartleby ends up dying due to starvation leaving the Lawyer to mourn.
In this story, there are several characters that have played a crucial in developing the plot of the story. Some of the characters include the narrator (Lawyer), Bartleby, nippers, turkey, Grub man, ginger nut, new tenants and landlords among others. We shall take a closer look at each of the characters and their roles in the story.
The narrator is an elderly man aged about sixty years old. He earns his living through helping the rich men to deal with their legal documents that is to say he owns a law firm. He has employed four men as copyists or scriveners namely, Nippers, Bartleby, Turkey and Nippers. He also believes that the easiest way of doing something is usually the best way. He is good when it comes to dealing with other people until when he meets Bartleby. Through Bartleby, a strange power is put on him. He is pushed away by circumstances leaving him to pity for himself. In addition, he is left powerless that he cannot make Bartley to do anything. Bartleby enables the narrator to view his world and the conditions of human in a fresh and upsetting way.
Bartleby is pale and forlorn and works as a legal copyist/scrivener. He is very polite, quiet and does not get angry quickly despite the fact that he is tough. To him life is pointless and has no meaning thus he cannot pretend to be enthusiastic for it. A distinguishing thing about Bartleby is his trademark sentence "I would prefer not to," continues to earmark his disengagement with the world (Melville, 2010). This statement drives the lawyer and fellow employees crazy. Every time that Bartleby mentions this word, he refuses not only a task but among the rituals that end up making up a normal life. At the end of the day, he ends up preferring not to eat that eventually kills him.
He is also a scrivener. He is elderly and likes drinking. From the look of things, he is the eldest employee of the lawyer. He is very productive during the morning hours but gets lazy and lousy in the afternoons. When he is drunk, he is a very exciting person to be with. Together with Nipper, they provide comic relief and they are more of cartoons than rounded characters. He is the opposite of Nippers.
He is also a copyist like Turkey. According to the narrator, he is a young man who is plagued with two evils, that is indigestion and ambition. His indigestion causes him to be very angry and irritable during the morning hours and when it finally cools down, he becomes a calm person. Looking at him closely, he is productive at the time when Turkey is not and is less productive when Turkey is productive. In other words, these two interchange their productivity hours.
He is twelve years old and works as the lawyer’s errand boy. His name originates from the cakes he brings the men in the office.
The new tenants and the landlord
It reaches a time when the narrator has to leave Bartleby and when he does so, new tenants come and take over the place. The landlord and the new tenants come to the narrator for assistance about Bartleby who has refused to leave and is even threatened with a scandal if he does not help them.
The grub man
Later on, Bartleby is arrested and sent to prison. While there he bribes the prison warder who is the Grub man so that he ensures he is well fed and taken good care of.
Conflict is vividly brought about by the need of the lawyer who needs an assistant and even personally interviews Bartleby. It is ironical that he is stuck with him and even cannot make a decision of firing him if need be. On the other hand Bartlebly logically applied for the interview and even participated (Melville, 2009). Thus it is ironical that he comes out as a person who has no ambition and zest in living but prefers keeping to himself. This conflict is highlighted when Bartlebly refuses to examine a paper with the Lawyer and just prefers to copy as his work dictates. This is weird for a man who came to the interview with very solid working experience. In a way it might be portrayed as insecurity or total lack of general knowledge in the field. His decision to always stick to his preferred way of living is a conflict in itself because in a social environment people who co-exist have to continually interact and assist each other in matters of common or mutual benefits. This is the second conflict in his determination to work yet operates in isolation. It is also conflicting for the Narrator who is the employer to move premises instead of simply firing Bartleby. This is a case of reversed roles because it portrays the Lawyer as a weak and faint hearted boss who prefers to personally inconvenience his career and life at the expense of one employee. The boss should be in a position to dictate the norms and policies to be adhered to. Bartleby simply throws everything out of order and is difficult to handle due to his non committal and limited interpersonal skills.
In conclusion, Bartleby is a story that looks at the tribulations and jubilations that people undergo in life and the different choices that they make. In addition, it helps us to know that people are different from one another and their tastes and preferences will be different.
Melville, Herman. Barlteby the Scrivener. New York: NuVision Publications, 2010.
Melville, Herman. Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street. New York: Harper Collins, 2009. Print