Bartleby the Scrivener is a short story which is written by Herman Melville. It is published in 1853 by Putnam’s Magazine. The story takes place in Wall Street, New York in the 1840s.
The story begin by the narrator, who also a character in this story, introduce his law firm on Wall Street. The narrator employs Bartleby as a scrivener or law copyist with three other employees named Turkey, Nippers and Ginger Nuts. One day, Bartleby’s behavior becomes strange. He never obeys the manager’s order with saying “would not prefer to” or even to be “a little reasonable”. He always repeats this enigmatic statement when the employer asks to do something to him. Later, the narrator decides to get rid of him by moving his office to an address that Bartleby doesn’t know. After moving to his new headquarter, the narrator try to find out about current Bartleby’s condition. Then, he caught Bartleby still in his old office. Finally, Bartleby are moved to the jail by the police as a vagrant and die there because he never eats at all.
In order to appreciate this story, it must be determined to see how the characterization works. The law firm owner who also acts as the narrator is an unambitious and elderly lawyer and enjoying his job as a lawyer in New York. He has well-known as “an eminently safe man” by his client. He really cares about his employee Bartleby who act peculiarly. Bartleby is a copyist/scrivener, a diligent worker at his first appearance, but suddenly changes the characterization into an unmotivated worker. Nippers is a whiskered, sallow and rather piratical-looking young man of about five and twenty. He is also a copyist in this law firm. Another copyist in this office is Turkey, the oldest scrivener. He is a short, pursy Englishman and nearing sixty. He is a reckless man, always makes a blots in his documents. And the last character is Ginger Nut. He is a boy about twelve years old. He works as an office boy. He called “Ginger Nut” after the cake which he brings for Turkey and Nippers.
The story itself sets in Wall Street, New York, the centre financial and business life in United States by 1840s. The setting of “Bartleby the Scrivener” is very crucial element of this story because it emphasizes Melville’s concern about the effect of capitalism in American society.
In fact, the narrator describes clearly about his employees. However, he even never mentions his name on this passage. It also makes a question that who actually the main character is. Is Bartleby or the narrator the main character? Bartleby is the main character, but the reader views his action by the narrator’s perspective. But, the narrator also could be considered as the main character, because the whole story tells about his action to perceive Bartleby’s passive resistance behavior.
It can be said that, the protagonist character is the lawyer and the antagonist one is Bartleby. Even though the whole of the story tells about how strange Bartleby is, it is the narrator’s story of how he dealt of this man who always “prefer not to”.
At his first appearance, Bartleby is a diligent worker. He did an extraordinary quantity of working, until the lawyer delighted with his works. Suddenly, Bartleby turns from a diligent worker into an unmotivated worker. He declines every order which had been given to him by his boss. That odd behavior probably comes because of Bartleby’s anticlimax. He tired to do copy, copy and copy like a machine. And what he writes is about copying, so it is nothing original from his thought. He doesn’t feels like a human, and more to a robot. So, that causal factor leads him to the depression and he becomes a weirdo. For the record, the story takes place before carbon copies, photocopy machine or computer are existed.
The second theory about the shift of Bartleby’s behavior is about his rights to do anything what he wants. As a human, he could “prefer not to” obey the lawyer’s order. So, he chooses to be an individualist and refuses all of other people said to him along this story.