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Herman Melville's Bartleby

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Bartleby Essay

In Herman Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener, Bartleby has a unique effect on the narrator: the narrator begins to question his own beliefs because of Bartleby's passive resistance. The narrator's logic becomes distorted and he does not know whether to use reason and fire Bartleby, because he refused to work, or to pity him and keep him as an employee while allowing him to sleep in the office, because he has nowhere else to live. In the end of the story, the narrator's sentiments cloud his judgment and his humanity overshadows his reason. The narrator thus experiences sadness when Bartleby dies because the narrator has a sentimental connection with Bartleby; humanity does not always make some feel good.

Although reason is more sound than feelings, the narrator, after considering both reason and feelings, decides to act on pity. In paragraph 146, the narrator reassures himself that firing Bartleby and kicking him from the office was the sound decision because underneath, he actually fears that his actions toward Bartleby were not good. At the very beginning of the paragraph, the narrator admits that "my vanity got the better of my pity." He realizes that he needed to think of himself before Bartleby. He proudly announces to himself that "my procedure seemed as sagacious as ever," and that "[he] could not but highly plume [himself] on [his] masterly management in getting rid of Bartleby." He is happy about how he logically executed his conducts. However, immediately the next morning, the narrator self-contradicts himself. He now believes that his plan seemed "as sagacious as ever, but only in theory." He believes that it is not up to him whether or not Bartleby leaves because "he was more a man of preferences than assumptions."



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