In Bartleby, the Scrivener, why do you think Melville withholds the information about the Dead Letter Office until the end of the story? How does this relate to Bartleby?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I believe the narrator, the lawyer who tells the story of Bartleby's strange "I would prefer not to" attitude to working wants his readers to experience the same confusion and disorientation about Bartleby that he felt as the saga was unfolding.

The narrator is taking us alongside him as he tells his story, letting the events unfold chronologically just as they did for him. It's as if he is filming the story and wants everything to be told in the right order as it happened.

This technique means the reader is just as mystified by Bartleby as the lawyer. We keep turning the pages, hoping we will get some insight into what is motivating him.

Ultimately, Bartleby is a mystery. The lawyer later hears the story of the Dead Letter Office and uses that to provide a plausible explanation for Bartleby's behavior, but since Bartleby is dead by the time the lawyer hears this tale, he has no way of...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 465 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team