Gabe's Reviews > Bartleby the Scrivener

Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville
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Feb 13, 2012

really liked it
Read from February 13 to 14, 2012

** spoiler alert ** I would like to start this review by saying this isn't really a review but more of a comparison of two fictional characters. I feel bad not including a review so I will get to that very quickly. This short story was my first experience with Herman Melville. Although it isn't exciting all the way through, it is very well written and I found Bartleby's mystery very intriguing.

I have been introduced to some influential fictional characters so far this year. Both were created before I was even an idea. After I read Bartleby, the Scrivener, I saw some striking similarities between these seemingly opposite characters.

Herman Melville introduced the reader to a "queer" fellow in Bartleby, the Scrivener. Bartleby worked as a scribe for a lawyer that narrated this short story. 130 years later we were introduced to another "queer" fellow named John Rambo in the movie First Blood. Sylvester Stallone played a Vietnam Veteran that struggled to cope with life back on United States soil. They were both seen as outcasts with little or no intention to interact with people. I would also like to note that both character's stories are guided by dialogue from another person. Colonel Trautman acts like a narrator and mentor to John Rambo. The lawyer attempted to do the same but with entirely different results. Bartleby distanced himself with the phrase, "I'd prefer not to" when asked to do simple tasks or to get acquainted with the lawyer. Rambo distances himself from others with traps, hand to hand combat, and rainstorms of bullets in later Rambo movies but we will stick to First Blood here.

In both stories the main characters are shaped by their past struggles with death. Rambo was a prominent Green Beret that lost many of his brothers in a controversial war. Although Bartleby was not in as much physical danger, his past revealed him as a former employee at a dead letter office. Melville noted that the mental toll taken on a person responsible in the destruction of letters and items that could not be delivered. Both characters are unraveled due to these experiences.

Maybe Melville is rolling over in his grave because of the comparisons to an action movie. But times are very different. If he was a writer in our time who's to say he wouldn't be putting the finishing touches on Moby Dick 8 3D: The icy cold dick of vengeance.
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