From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Bartleby the Scrivener

Bartleby the Scrivener

  

by Herman Melville

Analysis: Genre

Parable

This may seem like something of an odd choice of genre, but the more we think about it, the more clearly "Bartleby" can be defined as a parable of what Melville saw to be the dangers of the modern world. After all, we are left with a lesson of sorts regarding the threat of alienation and too much individualism; Bartleby reminds us of something that good ol' poet John Donne observed in the 17th century, the assertion that "No man is an island." Or rather, "no man can be an island." Or perhaps just "No man should be an island." Whatever. Even though the bustling business world in which Bartleby takes place, and the broader context of 19th-century America appears to value above all else the idea of the self-made man, Melville reminds us sharply that this might not be the best model to follow – he accomplishes this by showing us Bartleby, a self-unmade man of sorts.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...

Advertisement