Bartleby the Scrivener
Bartleby the Scrivener
by Herman Melville

Bartleby the Scrivener Analysis

Literary Devices in Bartleby the Scrivener

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Death seems to surround Bartleby from the moment he walks in the door and into the Narrator's life. He's described incessantly as "cadaverous," and this corpse-like disposition is reflected not onl...

Setting

This story's setting is central to our understanding of what's going on here – the original subtitle, "A Story of Wall Street," makes it clear that we're supposed to take its location into ac...

Narrator Point of View

Melville's choice of narrator is particularly important to this story. While he could have chosen any number of different angles from which to view the strange scrivener, his choice of the lawyer a...

Genre

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...

Tone

Throughout the story, the Narrator alternates between two poles – profound confusion and profound sadness. In telling Bartleby's story, his tone reflects these feelings, and effectively commu...

Writing Style

Melville, master of prose that he was, manages here to tell a tragic tale that also has great moments of comedy. He slyly pokes fun at his characters, even when they don't realize it – most n...

What's Up With the Title?

One might say that the mysterious character of Bartleby is the true heart of this enigmatic short story – but he's not exactly a lively, vibrant, beating heart. It's significant that Melville...

What's Up With the Ending?

"Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!" Ah, Melville! Seriously, guys – what an ending! With these parting words, this small story about one strange man becomes a statement about all of humanity.Melvil...

Plot Analysis

Bartleby arrives at the Narrator's law practice, seeking employment.Initially, everything seems normal; Bartleby, the new guy, shows up at an already-established office, and immediately gets to wor...

Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis: None

Honestly, "Bartleby" is just a little too odd to fit into any of Booker's categories. Yes, there is a plot here – but it's not clearly definable by any classic pattern. Really, "Bartleby" is...

Three Act Plot Analysis

Act I ends when Bartleby announces for the first time that he "prefers not to" participate in basic office tasks – the Narrator is committed to finding out what is up with this guy.In despera...

Trivia

The more pensive of the two avenging angels in Kevin Smith's Dogma (1999) is named Bartleby, no doubt in a reference to Melville's short story.And more general comedy lovers, this one is for you: a...

Steaminess Rating

Well, seeing as there are literally no women in the 19th century world of commerce that we see here, any question of heterosexuality is simply a non-issue. As with most Melville texts, an argument...

Allusions

George, Lord Byron (18) Cicero (22)Bible, Genesis 19: 26, story of Lot's wife (25)Bible, Genesis 2 and 3, story of Adam and Eve (52)Jonathan Edwards, Freedom of the Will (95) Joseph Priestley (95)B...

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