Term Paper: Bartleby, the Scrivener Although Melville

Pages: 7 (2224 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Business - Law  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Although the story of Bartleby does not chronologically follow the events reported in the New Testament, a strong similarity between events can nevertheless be seen. When Bartleby has finally broken all rules or laws that govern employment, a confrontation occurs at last between him and his employer, the lawyer. The lawyer attempts to ask him the simplest of questions that might help to save his employment. Bartleby, however, will answer nothing, including the question, "Will you tell me, Bartleby, where you were born?" (100) would prefer not to" (101).

After spending some time thinking about the bewildering attitude of the stranger, the lawyer decides upon making another attempt to save the man's employment. He approaches Bartleby again, this time trying a different approach.

Bartleby, never mind then about revealing your history; but let me entreat you, as a friend, to comply as far as may be with the usages of this office. Say now you will help to examine papers to-morrow or next day: in short, say now that in a day or two you will begin to be a little reasonable: say so, Bartleby" (109).

Bartleby, however, answers with his same perplexing answer. He would prefer not to examine any papers; he would prefer not to change his behavior at all. During this interrogation, Nippers storms into the room in a typical rage and makes threatening comments about Bartleby. Bartleby never moves.

The parallel between this scene and the interrogation of Jesus by Pilate is strong. In that situation, Pilate had nothing against Jesus, and asked - even pleaded - with Jesus to say something that might serve as a defense for his behavior. The charges against are that he spoke and acted in violation of various rules, regulations and laws of Judaism, laws that he felt were no longer serving mankind, and were therefore dead. Jesus, however, preferred not to say anything on his behalf, thus further infuriating the scribes and high priests.

In John 19, Pilate said, "Where are you from?" Jesus, however, preferred not to give him an answer even to that question. (John 19:9)

With no other apparent way of dealing with Bartleby, a short time after the interrogation the lawyer moves away, hoping to sever all ties with the strange man. (If Bartleby will not vacate the lawyer's offices, the lawyer will vacate his offices, himself. His peace of mind is short-lived, however. Another lawyer quickly finds him in his new office and asks him if he is not the responsible party for the strange man left behind in the other office.

The answer given by the narrator reveals more evidence of an ongoing and upsetting inner turmoil that has plagued the lawyer whenever he has been faced with confrontations or difficult situations.

I am very sorry, sir," said I, with assumed tranquility, but an inward tremor, "but, really, the man you allude to is nothing to me - he is no relation or apprentice of mine, that you should hold me responsible for him" (182).

It is this denial that many literary critics feel is based upon the denial of Peter after the arrest of Jesus. When asked if he, Peter, is not associated in someway with Jesus, Peter vehemently denies an association - and denies even knowing him: "And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also [one] of his disciples? He denied [it], and said, I am not" (John 18:5).

In the end, Bartleby is not ever pronounced truly dead, but through the eyes of the lawyer who is finally more aware and more seeing, he sleeps.

Eh! - He's asleep, ain't he?"

With kings and counselors," murmured I (248 & 249).

Having arrived as a mysterious stranger to occupy an office on Wall Street from which he will hold for a while the important job of copying the laws and letters of the lawyers and scribes, Bartleby would eventually put aside that work - the work of dead letters - and work, instead, on the narrator. When the narrator is finally forced to confront all that is in his presence, his emotions and his sense of love, compassion and responsibility come forth. Through the emotions and the awareness that are finally his, he comes alive for the first time in his sixty… [END OF PREVIEW]

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