An elderly man, and an "eminently safe" one. He makes his living helping rich men deal with their legal documents, and he is convinced that the easiest path is always the best one. Bartleby exerts a strange power over him: the narrator is simultaneously repulsed and moved to pity, and he is powerless to compel Bartleby to do anything. Through Bartleby, the narrator sees his world and the human condition in a new and unsettling way.
The pale and forlorn scrivener, or legal copyist. Bartleby is incredibly passive, quiet, never becoming angry. But he is also unyielding. Life itself is pointless to him, and he cannot pretend enthusiasm for it. His trademark sentence, "I would prefer not to," marks his continuing disengagement from the world. Each time Bartleby utters it, he is refusing not only a task, but one of the rituals that make up a normal life. He ends by "preferring not to" eat, which kills him.
Another copyist. He is an elderly drunk, productive in the mornings but sloshed by the afternoons. When drunk, he is highly excitable. He and Nippers provide comic relief, and are caricatures rather than rounded characters.
Another copyist. He is a young man plagued, as the narrator tells us, by the two evils of ambition and indigestion. His indigestion makes him irritable and angry in the morning, but as it fades he becomes more calm. Thus Nippers is productive when Turkey is not, and vice-versa.
The twelve-year-old office boy. He is named after the cakes he brings for the men.
The new tenants and the landlord
After the narrator moves to rid himself of Bartleby, the new tenants and the landlord of the old office come to the narrator to ask him to do something about Bartleby, who refuses to leave. One of them threatens a scandal if the narrator will not help them.
One of the turnkeys at the Tombs, the prison where Bartleby is sent. For a bribe, he offers to make sure Bartleby is well-fed.
Bartleby the Scrivener Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Bartleby the Scrivener is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
While it is true that Bartleby says that he has limited by his eyesight, the reality is he is gradually withdrawing and continues to "prefer not to" regardless of what the task. The attorney tries to understand, but the walls which Bartleby faces...
Bartleby is one of the most isolated characters in all of literature. Bartleby's environment cuts him off from nature and often, from other men. By day, Bartleby's window stares at a wall. Wall Street is a bleak and unnatural landscape, and...