Bartleby, the Scrivener Bartleby, the Scrivener question


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what does bartleby means to you?
Magda Magda Dec 11, 2011 01:44AM
I read this book a few days ago and i liked it from the beginning to the end. I see the twists of the narration, I loved the humor and I was moved by some remarks.
But what is Bartleby to me? I can not say yet.



I don't know if Bartleby is symbolic of anything. I saw it as a study on someone's impotence to help or undestand somebody in any meaningful way, and the guilty sense of responsibility that confers.


Aside from the fact that the story is sad and interesting, I feel its about perception.
Bartleby is perceived to be abnormal and a weird character, but is he really ? He is simply reacting how he know to react to the "change", to "not accept the change".


Bartlby represents corporate America, the official subtitle is "A Story of Wall-Street", and being dehumanized by a nameless narrator who's job it is, as a lawyer, to drag out legal affairs just so he can pocket the cash. The character can also be interpreted to be suffering from depression, an illness which at the time was not heard of or known about.

If the reader takes the perspective of Bartleby, as most of us would on our first read through, then we sympathize with his dehumanization, having to live in the office, dealing with the other copyists weird natures and the narrator's abuse. He even dies at the end.

But take the narrator's perspective. His character has never had to look in depth about his workers, merely putting up with them. In all honesty, I had more sympathy for him, especially at the end when he hears the rumor about Bartleby's old job in dead letters. He attributes working there to Bartleby's behavior and then wipes his hands of the whole event.

Melville was genius in this publication. Moby Dick did not get it's critical acclaim under after his death, but Bartleby is by far a more accurate picture of working/middle class America in those times than most other works published back then.

Oh! And don't go find the movie. It was not an accurate book-to-movie translation!!

(Yes, I did a report on this for college, so excuse the long comment <3)


I read this so long ago, but I will reread it sometime fairly soon. It is one of my favorite stories of all time. Are you all familiar with Bartleby.com? It's a fine classic book site...I've used it ever since I "discovered" the Internet. Bartleby is gentle, helpless...today he would be soundly bullied until he conformed or left or worse...


It seems to me that Bartleby is the personification of a creative endeavour. Appearing suddenly and being wildly productive, to the point where he avoids participating in revisions no matter how compelling the logic is for him to participate. But like an artistic block, Bartleby ultimately stops producing.

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Magda This a very nice and clever interpretation, it really says something to me, but my objection (if i can have one) is that it strips all the humanity of ...more
Oct 25, 2012 01:37PM
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Bill Would rephrasing my interpretation to be that Bartleby's behavior in the story parallels a creative endeavour be better?
Nov 11, 2012 07:34PM

he means an another side of myself ! sometimes i feel just like bartleby !


I would prefer not to say.


This question is so hard to answer! On the one hand, Bartleby is a delicate, perhaps not entirely sane person: someone deserving of compassion, possessing weariness and gentle charm.

But, more than that, I see him, and the entire situation, as a reaction to the preconceived ideas of "normal".

When presented with Bartleby's gentle dissents, nonviolent protests, and the like, the narrator is... helpless. Nothing in his life has ever prepared him for dealing with something like this. It is a true learning process--a slow, painful one, at that. It is an adult trying to cope with a change to the fundamental fabric of their entire worldview.


At a superficial level, Bartleby is clinically depressed, a condition that under other names has been known for a long time. Lack of interest in anything, lack of energy, self-destructive behaviours, etc are all characteristic symptoms. There's more to it than that, yes, perhaps a commentary on the dehumanizing nature of the work, and indeed on notions of normality. But more interesting to me is the narrator's reaction - he seems strangely averse to confrontation generally, but even more than that, he seems to have a quiet, but deep, sympathy for Bartleby, perhaps because he identifies with him, and I see him as the more functional version of Bartleby.


what makes bartleby the scrrivener such a fascinating story is its openness to so many interpretations they are all valid and yet at the same time they cannot encompass Bartleby this solitary, strange trespasser
for me Bartleby is simply a cry for humanity in a dehumanized reality..


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