Bartleby The Scrivener: Story Of Uncanny Character With Inability To Move Forward In Life

Bartelby, living and dead Herman Melville’s story “Bartelby the scrivener” is narrating about an uncanny character named Bartelby, a copyist who has been hired to work in law office. Due his impressive work he was Considered to be useful for the manager. But later on his sense of giving upon living has constructed a problem for the narrator, as well for other employees too. Along with time he loses interest in work and started to disobey his master. On asking to complete a task Bartelby refuses it by saying “I would prefer not to” an annoying phrase commonly used by him for disobedience.

His purpose less life characterise him as nothing less than a cadaver. Bartelby’s action reveal his life less appearance as he live the life of stillness, after being fired by narrator when he still asked for another opportunity to make next move to improve his life to work as a scrivener for someone else, he answered that “I would prefer not to make any changes”.

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At this point the theme of his existence between human and inhuman, living and dead come from his inability to move forward in life, even after being offered with money and food but still his answer was the same heading ‘no preference’.

What the reason one could have to live with no purpose in life ?. Bartelby has been surrounded by death since he appeared in narrator’s life. Besides showing life from his actions, death surround Bartelby from the moment he appeared in narrator’s life, his weak pale appearance make an un-dead quality about him even after he is alive.

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Some ghostly reference was used for Bartleby’s figure, even narrator first words when Bartleby showed was “a motionless young man stood up one morning” (pg. 10, pdf version). Nextaly, his placidness is described while Bartleby used to continuously look out from a window at dead wall. So, many time this dead letter employee who rejected life and even is so non participatory that, may be assumed dead before he actually is.

Bartleby the Scrivener is a tale of uncanny spirit. At page no. 13 first time lawyer seem to be angry at the Bartleby due to persistent refusals, here at this point lawyer had a feeling of uncanniness. The narrator’s description of the character of scrivener can leave effect of un-canniness, readers can be uncertain if the particular figure is human being or cybernation. Many times he is descripted as a machine, his wording “there was no pause for digestion” and “He wrote on silently, palely and mechanically”. In the story, this particular figure can be pointed out to be described the way being uncanny.

Works cited

  1. Melville, H. (1853). Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street. Putnam's Monthly Magazine, 2(11), 1-18.
  2. Bloom, H. (2009). Herman Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener. Infobase Publishing.
  3. Parker, H. (2017). The Existentialism of Bartleby. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Research, 6(1), 9-17.
  4. Prats, A. (2018). Dehumanization, self-destruction, and textual strategies in “Bartleby the Scrivener”. Atlantis, 40(1), 45-62.
  5. Breithaupt, F. (2014). Bartleby, the Unemployed. New Literary History, 45(2), 313-330.
  6. Walker, A. (2011). Death and Lifelessness in Melville's "Bartleby". Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature, 63(2), 79-94.
  7. Kim, E. (2014). Between Empathy and Enmity: Bartleby’s Subversive Melancholy. Journal of English Language and Literature/Yongo Yongmunhak, 60(4), 673-692.
  8. Guevara, C. (2015). Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener" and the Language of Commodities. ELH, 82(4), 1105-1132.
  9. Parker, R. (2019). Bartleby's Neighbors: The Law Office as Modern Urban Space. Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies, 21(3), 47-62.
  10. Jenkins, R. (2012). Narrative and Space in Melville's "Bartleby". Literature Compass, 9(9), 642-652.
Updated: Feb 28, 2024
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Bartleby The Scrivener: Story Of Uncanny Character With Inability To Move Forward In Life. (2024, Feb 28). Retrieved from

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