• Why do you think Melville chose the unnamed Wall Street lawyer as his narrator?
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    This answer is perfectly legitimate, but ignores the deeper significance of Bartleby’s “I prefer not to.”  Melville is trying to dramatize the difference between goal-driven action and personal choice.  While “existentialism” is not exactly the right word to describe this difference, Melville’s entire canon serves to show the consequences of choice—choosing to go after Moby Dick, or Bill Budd’s choosing to “bless Captain Vere” rather than cursing his fate, etc.  The unnamed lawyer in Bartleby the Scrivener has chosen to conform to the written and...

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