Bartleby the Scrivener
- This is a satire of Wall Street.
-Scrivener - a person who manually copied legal documents (human copy machine)
- Melville states that there would be a sequel but we know that he never actually intends to
write a second part.
“I would prefer not to.”
●Bartleby just keeps refusing to do any of his given work tasks.
●This is an obvious quote to remember!
- The lawyer’s reactions are just as important as Bartleby’s behavior. The lawyer at least
tries to understand Bartleby, but the other employees get annoyed because they feel like
Bartleby should just be ﬁred immediately. The lawyer has a high need for cognition and
wants to know why Bartleby is so odd.
“I am a rather elderly man… I have known very many of them… and if I pleased, could relate
divers histories… But I waive the biographies of all other scriveners for a few passages in the life
of Bartleby, who was a scrivener the strangest I ever saw or heard of” (1469).
●The narrator has many stories, but the one he wants to tell the most is that of Bartleby.
“At the period just preceding the advent of Bartleby, I had two personas as copyists in my
employment, and a promising lad as an ofﬁce-boy. First, Turkey; second, Nippers; third, Ginger
Nut… In truth they were nicknames, mutually conferred upon each other by my three clerks, and
were deemed expressive of their respective persons” (1470).
●The nickname Turkey is used as an affectionate put-down (you still care about the person
but they are being a goof).
●The nickname Nippers refers to the old-fashioned term nip , which is the way you’re
supposed to drink hard liquor (a small sip). So, Nipper , frequently drinks alcohol and
usually keeps his ﬂask with him.
●The nickname Ginger Nut is used for the errand boy (today, this is equivalent to the ofﬁce
intern). While he’s out running errands, he likes to stop and buy a snack of hot ginger nuts
from street vendors.
“‘Bartleby,’ said I, ‘Ginger Nut is away; just step round to the Post Ofﬁce, won’t you? (it was but a
three minutes walk,) and see if there is any thing for me.’ ‘I would prefer not to.’ ‘You will not?’ ‘I
prefer not’... ‘Bartleby!’ No answer. ‘Bartleby,’ in a louder tone. No answer. ‘Bartleby,’ I roared…
intimidating the unalterable purpose of some terrible retribution very close at hand” (1479).
●The difference is that prefer is more passive.