Bartleby the scrivener

Bartleby the scrivener. Write a 1000 word paper answering; Melvilles 1853 story employs food and nourishment as visual imagery to portray the ability to relate to others that we have learned as children from our own nurturing parents.

The tale revolves around a sad and out of place scribe that comes to work for the narrator. Bartleby, the scribe, begins with much industry, but soon takes to idleness as he prefers to do less and less as the story progresses. The narrator, who owns the law firm and is Bartlebys employer, is taken aback and frustrated by any attempt to get Bartleby to fulfil his obligations as a scribe. The other three characters in the owners employ are far more critical of Bartlebys preference not to work than the compassionate owner is. The narrator, refusing to cause Bartleby undue legal problems, eventually evacuates his office and leaves the odd scrivener behind.

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Melville has aptly named two of the office scribes after food. Turkey is an older gentleman given to drink at lunch and becoming excitable and moody in the afternoon. Ginger Nut is the young apprentice who was placed in the owners hire at the age of twelve when his father died. The third scribe, Nippers, was a young man “… whiskered, sallow, and, upon the whole, rather piratical-looking young man … the victim of two evil powers–ambition and indigestion”. Melville describes the temperament of each character through the study of their eating habits or lack of them.

Bartleby did not eat except for the occasional ginger-nut cookie delivered by Ginger Nut. Likewise he had no contact with anyone and no relationships outside the office. In the office his interaction with the characters is sparse and passively resistant. He denies himself food just like he foregoes any human contact. Melville does not allow us to know anything about Bartleby, or his past, as he states, “I observed that he never went to dinner”.

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