Can someone please help me answering the following questions about "Bartleby the Scrivener": 1. Why do you think Turkey, Nippers, and Ginger Nut are introduced to the reader before Bartleby? 2....

Can someone please help me answering the following questions about "Bartleby the Scrivener":

1. Why do you think Turkey, Nippers, and Ginger Nut are introduced to the reader before Bartleby?

2. Describe Bartleby's physical characteristics. How is his physical description a foreshadowing of what happens to him?

3. What is the significance of the subtitle: "A Story of Wall Street"?

4. What motivates Bartleby's behavior? Why do you think Melville withholds the information about the Dead Letter Office until the end of the story? Does this background adequately explain Bartleby?

5. Do you think Melville sympathize more with Bartleby or with the lawyer?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. The other scriveners are introduced before Bartleby in order to present their individual characteristics before they are affected by Bartleby's presence. While they are not the perfect workers, the lawyer points out that Turkey works steadily and rather swiftly before noon; Nippers is the opposite, working better after lunch, so between the two the work is accomplished. The lawyer describes them thusly,

Nipper's was on, Turkey's was off, and vice versa. This was a good natural arrangement, under the circumstances.

Ginger Nut, the office boy supplies the two scriveners with cakes and such which relieves their tedium and keeps them going. When Bartleby arrives, he works well alone, but when he is asked to read the legal document in the presence of the others, the introvert shuts down and starts to "prefer not to" do his work because he is so inhibited.

2. Bartleby is first described by the lawyer/narrator as "a motionless young man...pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn!" At first, Bartleby applies himself well to his position; however, the lawyer is disappointed that he is not cheerful, noting that he "wrote on silently, palely, mechanically."

Certainly, Melville's description of Bartleby and the reactions of his employer suggest that there is a lack of understanding of the employer and his perception of Bartleby verges on negativity. Especially the word "incurably" hints that Bartleby's introversion will continue and worsen.

3. The subtitle points to the artificiality of commerce that constructs its own world by building a wall around itself. In fact, walls figure significantly in this story. The extroverted and congenial lawyer himself puts pitiable Bartleby behind a "high green folding screen" so that he is within hearing but cannot be seen. Within the confines of these walls, the commercial system confines and figuratively imprisoned people. In this manner, Melville offers a critique against America as a growing system of capitalism.

4. There is an excellent comparison made of Bartleby to what Jung defines as an introvert [ "Bartleby the Introvert by William Delaney] which provides meaningful insight into Melville's character. 

Melville withholds the information about Bartleby's having worked in the Dead Letter Office allows the reader to sympathize with the lawyer's opinions as well as to reserve judgment on Bartleby at the beginning.

5. Since Melville spent many years on the open sea, his sympathies would certainly be with those opposed to walls and alienation. On the other hand, he would understand the aloneness of man, a plight suffered by Bartleby.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator
  1. Turkey, Nippers, and Ginger Nut are introduced before Bartleby to show how tolerant the narrator generally is of eccentric and somewhat unproductive employees. For example, Nippers is irritable in the morning hours, while Turkey is erratic and messy in the afternoon. Ginger Nut, the errand boy, spends most of his time procuring cakes for the office. Nevertheless, although the narrator has some quibbles with them and even tries to dismiss Turkey, he never does so because he desires the easiest life. Therefore, even though Bartleby is inert, the narrator takes some time to dismiss him, and it is obviously traumatic for the narrator to have to take any extreme steps.
  2. When Bartleby first appears, the narrator describes him as "pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn!" His forlorn and decrepit nature will only worsen as the story goes on, and he is eventually thrown out of the narrator's firm.
  3. The story takes place on Wall Street in New York City, and the walls in the story are also symbolic of the walls that surround Bartleby. At the end of the story, he dies outside the walls in the Tombs, a prison, signifying that he has at last freed himself from the confinement and restrictions that his existence placed on him.
  4. The narrator feels that Bartleby's previous employment in the Dead Letter Office explains Bartleby's enervation. Bartleby's job was to sort letters that could not be delivered to the recipient, perhaps because the recipient had died. Such a task could have made Bartleby hopeless and depressed. After the narrator learns this information, at the end of the story, he begins to understand Bartleby. He withholds this information until the end of the story because he never understands Bartleby until it is too late. 
  5. Melville's sympathies seem to lie with Bartleby, as he is a defenseless and pitiable creatures who dies while imprisoned. At least Bartleby has convictions, while the narrator, the lawyer, is presented as a weak man who only wants to make life palatable and easy for himself. 

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