Bartleby, the Scrivener

Published 13 Dec 2016

Herman Melville has written a bibliographical record of a man who is exceedingly strange and someone of a kind. A man named Bartleby who worked as a law-copyist or a scrivener of which he was the last employer. The author concluded that the man who had a wasted life has left an indelible imprint in his soul. He did not only pity Bartleby but revered his gentle countenance; someone whom he wishes to befriend with but remained unreachable until the end. He is a man that made him go deeper into his conscience.

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Melville has vividly portrayed in his writings Bartleby’s passion towards his job. That the scrivener prefers to do nothing on earth but his work; he is a consistent fast and tedious worker. Lives alone for a task he only prefers doing, loves the work that he does so perfectly well. Despite of the fact that Bartleby body has given in to weakness because of his poverty and loneliness he had wish to remain where he is. Probably it is the only attachment that binds him to earth, the only thing that makes him live the remainder of his life. Being a scrivener is his only being and when his eyes can no longer sustains his writings he was impregnated to his work desk and it doesn’t matter if he will be facing the wall for the day.

It is unbelievable for such a person to react that way towards his inclinations and attachments. But who are we to judge someone like Bartleby, when we had never dip a toe to what he was able to experience in this life. He accepted death freely and uncomplaining especially when he told Melville that the prison courtyard is good because there is grass and the sky is blue. He even died without closing his eyes; it was the last thing he saw before he departed. How could a person so starved to death still enjoys the greatness of the world that forlorn him. It was so unlikely to die of self starvation and at the same time feeling the comfort of the soft green grass and looking at the horizon of the clear blue skies. Maybe a soul so close to sufferings can only do that.

Bartleby is a man who had lost all his hope when he loses his job. It could be so traumatic burning his work when he has spent all his efforts towards that every pages of his own writings. Burning or seeing the soul of your toil turns to ashes is indeed the most vulnerable experience that could ever happen to someone. Most satisfaction of man is driven by his professional growth. A life that services others is a rewarding life. Most of the time society fails to recognize that toil is the material that man uses to earn his glory. A materialistic society recognizes work as only a means to earn money.

Sometimes the world is cruel when it rejects someone who could still have earned his value. Curse is the man who devalues someone’s worth. Though this world continues to revolve, it is sometimes difficult for others to understand that the only constant in this world is change. Some people are maladjusted or inflexible; in short there are persons like Bartleby who no longer accepts the world as it is offered to them. It could have what pain had cost him. Sometimes too much pain numbs.

“I would prefer not to (Melville, 1853)” is the copyist’s favorite lines. He speaks not of arrogance but of simple honesty that he is only made for such stuff. There are cases in someone else’s life that without human respect we say no to others. However, in times of difficult moment it will always be safer to reach out than to hide in a shell and not to give in to despair. It is always helpful to try the other side of the rope.

In Melville’s bibliography on the Scrivener’s life, it was so touching that someone who seemed to be incomprehensible and stubbornly different can captures someone’s thought until the last phase of his life. Bartleby’s life is the direct opposite of the author’s life and was indeed a very down to earth example of a suffering humanity that lives an imprint to each and every soul.


Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-street [Electronic Version]. Retrieved 15 November 2007, from

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