In "Bartleby the Scrivener,"  what does the lawyer see in Bartleby? After all, the lawyer has never seen him before he hires him.

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ms-mcgregor's profile pic

ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The lawyer, who has just taken on new work, is looking for a copyist or scrivener, not another lawyer. Since there were no copy machines in those days, lawyers had to have all legal documents copied by hand. The work was tedious and stressful because each copy had to be exactly like the other copy. Since the lawyer is in a hurry to hire someone to do the extra work, and Bartleby seems to be qualified, the lawyer hires him. At first, everything goes well. Then, of course, Bartleby begin "preferring not" to do things. I'm sure if the lawyer had checked out some of Bartleby's references, he would have been warned that his scrivener was a little odd. But the lawyer is a kind man and seems to trust others easily. That and his haste to hire someone leads to tragic consequences.

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valiente74 | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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First of all, the lawyer is in a hurry to find anyone who could do the extra work for his expanded business.  He hopes for a diligent copyist and is initially satisfied.  However, when Bartleby "prefers not" to be of assistance, the lawyer is dumbfounded.  What does he see in Bartleby?  He detects an obstacle to Bartleby's initial industriousness which should be identified and removed.  As much as he is frustrated, the lawyer knows that Bartleby does not mean ill, but is simply an otherwise useful person who needs to be understood.  But as he finds the possible cause for Bartleby's eccentricity belatedly, the lawyer feels aggrieved, yet finds closure from observing that Bartleby's care for the less fortunate knows no limit.