📚 Bartleby, the Scrivener – A Story of Wall Street (Herman Melville)

Read Bartleby, the Scrivener by Contributors to Wikimedia projects

“Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” is a short story by the American writer Herman Melville, first serialized anonymously in two parts in the November and December 1853 issues of Putnam’s Magazine and reprinted with minor textual alterations in his The Piazza Tales in 1856. In the story, a Wall Street lawyer hires a new clerk who, after an initial bout of hard work, refuses to make copies or do any other task required of him, refusing with the words “I would prefer not to.”

Bartleby, the Scrivener one of the first text I read at university. There is something strange and frustrating about Bartleby. I think ironically about the way in which he lingers long after the novel finishes, especially the phrase, “I would prefer not to.”

One of the interesting things in re-reading such texts is how memory holds up. I remember the refusal to work, even though there was no practical reason not to. This is summed up in the quote from the story:

Nothing so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance.

However, what I had forgotten was that there was more to Bartleby than we can ever quite know.

He never spoke, but to answer

In particular, the death due to starvation, highlighting that there might have been more going on.

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