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In "Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street" by Herman Melville, what is the...

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hellothere777 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 30, 2011 at 7:56 AM via web

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In "Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street" by Herman Melville, what is the description of the narrator?

(Age/career/personality, one "profound conviction" he follows)  

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 30, 2011 at 6:28 PM (Answer #1)

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 A Wall-Street attorney, the narrator is approximately sixty years old, having held for years a prominent position in his field as Master in Chancery.  Widely viewed as a sinecure, the attorney's position is a very profitable one that requires little work on his part as what there is to be done is performed by relatives or friends of the very powerful and influential.  This older lawyer of stature describes himself as a prudent and unambitious man who seldom loses his temper and considers "the easiest way of life is the best."

Rather interestlingly, in his critical essay, "Melville's Bartleby as Psychological Double," Mordecai Marcus, poet and professor of English, contends that Bartleby is a doppelganger of the narrator/attorney. For, Bartleby, who also is isolated and who "would prefer not to," according to Marcus, is a manifestation of the lawyer's psyche which contains a passivity and a desire to escape the humdrum and monotony of the modern material world. At any rate, with the sterility and impersonality of the modern business world, the narrator and Bartleby certainly are interchangeable. In fact, after the narrator moves from the office where Bartleby comes to reside, he remarks,

Strange to say—I tore myself from him whom I had so longed to be rid of.''

It may be, then, that the rather unreliable narrator,  finds more identity with his double, Bartleby, than he does within himself.

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