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Compare and contrast "Bartleby the Scrivener" with another story of Herman Melville.

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159 | Student, College Freshman | Honors

Posted January 19, 2013 at 8:39 PM via web

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Compare and contrast "Bartleby the Scrivener" with another story of Herman Melville.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 20, 2013 at 10:25 AM (Answer #1)

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This short story by Herman Melville is an excellent example of the author's style and his power in creating memorable images and scenes through his words. Although in this short story the first person perspective is used, as Melville writes from the point of view of the lawyer who narrates the tale, similar stylistic strengths can be seen in "The Encantadas," short sketches about travelling around the Galapagos Islands. Note, for example, the following image of the narrator's office and its surroundings:

In that direction my windows commanded an unobstructed view of a lofty brick wall, black by age and everlasting shade; which wall required no spyglass to bring out its lurking beauties, but for the benefit of all near-sighted spectators, was pushed up to within ten feet of my window panes.

There is signfiicant humour in this description, as the reference to a spyglass to look at a wall ten feet from the window makes clear. However, note the image of entrapment and enclosed restriction this description creates. This is a very important aspect of the story as it powerfully communicates the sense of entrapment that Bartleby experienced.

In the same way, note the following image from "The Encantadas," that describes Hunilla mourning the death of her husband and brother:

Her hands fresh from the burial earth, she slowly went back to the beach, with unshaped purposes wandering there, her spellbound eye bent upon the incessant waves. But they bore nothing to her but a dirge, which maddened her to think that murderers should mourn.

Descriptive features such as the adjective "incessant" and reference to her "unshaped purposes" serve to create a vibrant image that perfectly allows the reader to picture the scene. Although these two short stories are very different in terms of narrative perspective, themes and setting, at the same time they both feature strong visual images that bear witness to the considerable skill and expertise of the author.

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