In Bartleby the Scrivener, how does the lawyer's description of himself serve to characterize him? Why is it significant that he is a lawyer?

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At the beginning of the story, the lawyer describes himself as an older man and a person who has sought an easy path through life, although also one that makes him a good deal of money. He uses as a character reference the approval he received from the late—and extraordinarily wealthy—John Jacob Astor for his lawyerly "prudence." The lawyer writes of himself:

I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men’s bonds and mortgages and title-deeds. All who know me, consider me an eminently safe man.

The lawyer inspires trust, he works among the wealthy, he supports the status quo, and his clients feel safe with him. This characterizes him as an orthodox person who is a foil or opposite to Bartleby, a man who profoundly challenges the economic system in his "I prefer not to" refusal to work. The lawyer is stretched and challenged by the presence of...

(The entire section contains 5 answers and 1096 words.)

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