Bartleby the Scrivener, A Tale of Wall Street Questions and Answers
by Herman Melville

Bartleby the Scrivener, A Tale of Wall Street book cover
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In "Bartleby the Scrivener," discuss the story's humor and how it affected your response to Bartleby.

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"Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-street" is a darkly comic short story that satirizes the nature of work and its role in ascribing meaning to our lives. The comedy in the story also raises questions about the extent to which human beings have a moral obligation to assume responsibility for and care for their fellow humans.

First, "Bartleby" is funny because of Bartleby's responses to his employer's requests. Whenever his boss asks him to take on a new task or simply to spend some time chatting with him or with his coworkers, Bartleby replies that he would prefer not to. His refusals are unexpected and inappropriate, but they are also delivered in a calm, matter-of-fact way. The contrast between the expected response to one's boss and Bartleby's response is humorous. This humor makes a mockery of the Wall Street law firm—generally a workplace that is viewed as a high-powered place full of ambitious young clerks. By refusing to do more than the simple copying task for which he...

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