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Bartleby the Scrivener, A Tale of Wall Street

by Herman Melville

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Who is the protagonist of Bartleby the Scrivener and why?

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The protagonist is the character who changes the status quo. For example, in Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire it is obvious that Blanche Dubois is the protagonist, since she enters from the outside world and moves into the small apartment of Stanley and Stella, disrupting their normal routine. In Bartleby the Scrivener it must be Bartleby who is the protagonist, even though he might be described as a passive-aggressive type who does very little to disrupt the office routine. Just his presense there is enough to create conflict. The narrator becomes upset and distracted. His employees become contentious. Bartleby in his quiet way is a rebel who creates discord. The narrator may feel that this new employee could set a bad example for his other employees. If Bartleby can refuse legitimate requests, then the others might start doing the same thing. The protagonist is very often the character who, like Blanche, comes in from the outside. What is interesting and amusing about Bartleby as a protagonist is that he does very little to upset things, but what he does do is enough.

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