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Bartleby the Scrivener

Bartleby the Scrivener


by Herman Melville

Analysis: Tone

Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?

Alternately mystified and elegiac

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 communicates to us the Narrator's genuine emotional involvement in the events he describes. Through his telling of the story, we strongly identify with him and see Bartleby as both pathetic and a little frightening, just as the Narrator does.

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