Bartleby the Scrivener
How we cite our quotes:
In short, the truth of the matter was Nippers knew not what he wanted. (9)
Nippers's profound discontentment is a result of his uncertainty and undirected ambition – we must wonder if Bartleby is happier, in his way, than the unsure Nippers.
"I would prefer not to," said he.
I looked at him steadfastly. His face was leanly composed; his gray eyes dimly calm. Not a wrinkle of agitation rippled him. Hat there been the least uneasiness, anger, impatience or impertinence in his manner; in other words, had there been anything ordinarily human about him, doubtless I should have violently dismissed him from the premises. But as it was I should have as soon thought of turning my pale plaster-of-Paris bust of Cicero out of doors. (22)
Bartleby's decision is so decisive that it's inhuman – his choices are so definite that his mind is unchangeable, a quality that makes them impossible to question.
"I prefer not to," [Bartleby] replied in a flutelike tone. It seemed to me that, while I had been addressing him, he carefully revolved every statement that I made; fully comprehended the meaning; could not gainsay the irresistible conclusion; but, at the same time, some paramount consideration prevailed with him to reply as he did. (27)
Here, the Narrator tries to comprehend the incomprehensible: Bartleby's decision-making process.