Unit 2 Assignment 1
Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville
"Bartleby the Scrivener" is a multifaceted story written by Herman Melville, an American novelist. The story is written from the view of a first person narrator. This narrator, who is an unnamed Lawyer on Wall Street, is a major character and the protagonist of this story. The story itself is ultimately about Bartleby a scrivener that comes to work for the lawyer. The narrator opens with a description of himself, some antidotes of his former and current employees, and explains that his practice has recently grown. The lawyer at this point hires Bartleby and proceeds to tell the reader what t he knows about the man. Bartleby started out as a wonderful employee and copying as if his life depended on it. Then suddenly when asked to proofread his own copy he simply “preferred not to” do this additional task. Bartleby was eventually fired but refused to leave, even when the lawyer moved his practice. Eventually he was incarcerated where he died of starvation due to preferring not to eat.
Bartleby’s frequently repeated motto, “I would prefer not to (Charters, 2018, p. 612)" echoes throughout the story. Bartleby is always polite and never forceful which seems to intrigue the lawyer. Bartleby politely refuses to complete tasks and this progresses to anything that he simply would prefer not to do. His refusal to conform to workplace norms is one of the major themes of the story. The capitalist struggle were the employer wants to get the most out of his employee but the employee only wants to do the parts of the job they like or feel are "supposed" to do. Throughout the story Bartleby seems quite strange but almost intriguing to the lawyer, a semi workplace hero, so he gets away with more than the reader would think he should.
The theme of passive resistance is a another major player throughout the story. The delicate balance where Bartleby continues to defy the wishes of the lawyer but does so in a manner that doesn't result in him being fired. This passive resistance allows Bartleby to skate by with doing only the work he wants...