Heavenly Charity in Bartleby Essay

Heavenly Charity in Bartleby Essay

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In every workplace, employees do what is in their job description. Rarely there are workers who get away without performing their duties. Bartleby, however, gets away with it. In Herman Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener", there is one character that refuses to do his work and yet he is the main concern of his boss. His boss, an attorney and the narrator of the story, isn't concerned with firing Bartleby but instead is aroused with his actions. "Bartleby, the Scrivener" can illustrate misfortune, growing compassion and a similarity to God.

Bartleby is a man who is in charge of his own life by having a free will and living a life of preference. His infamous line "I prefer not to" appears in the story numerous times. His choice of preference leads to the downfall of his life. Bartleby made several crucial mistakes that lead to his downfall. His first mistake was when the attorney asked him to make copies and run errands for him and Bartleby preferred not to do so. "At this early stage of his attempt to act by his preferences, Bartleby has done nothing more serious than break the ground rules of the attorney's office by avoiding duties the attorney is accustomed to having his scriveners perform" (Patrick 45). An employee is also supposed to do tasks in the job description and when these tasks are not accomplished or done correctly, not once but several times, it usually leads to termination. Bartleby is a rare case because he does not get fired. This in turn results in his second mistake. Since he was able to get away with not doing anything, Bartleby opted to take the next step and quit his job or in his own words, "give up copying" (Melville 2345). Quitting caused him to have more troubles than he had before. Bartleby then...


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...his free will and preference lead him towards death.

In conclusion, preference is truly free will that can lead to several paths in life. "Bartleby the Scrivener" led to misfortune, growing compassion and a comparison to God. The paths we choose in life not only impact us but those around us as well. "Fixed fate hands out misery and suffering to some and better fortunes to others, but where both good and evil are essential components to the scheme" (Patrick 53).

Work Cited

Emery, Allan Moore. "The Alternatives of Melville's "Bartleby." Nineteenth-

Century Fiction. 31.2 (1976): 170-187

Melville, Herman. "Bartleby the Scrivener." The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym. New York: Norton & Company, 2003. 2330-2355

Patrick, Walton R. "Melville's "Bartleby" and the Doctrine of Neccessity." American

Literature 41.1 (1969): 39-54

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