Bartleby the Scrivener

Rebels and Non-comformists in the Short Stories of Herman Melville

In many of the short stories written by the American author Herman Melville (1819-1891), the main characters tend to exhibit some form of rebellion, usually against the normal dictates of society or against those who are in power. This trait is most often associated with the non-conformist, a person who refuses to conform to a generally accepted pattern of thought or action. Of course, Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener," first published in the November and December 1853 issues of Putnam's Monthly Magazine, contains one of the prime examples of the Melvillian rebel, being Bartleby himself. In essence, Bartleby, along with several other main characters that appear in other short tales, are obviously reflections of the time in which Melville lived and worked when America as a country was filled with rebellion and non-conformists.

Bartleby, the alienated man who lends his name to the story's title, states several times that "I would prefer not to" in regard to doing his job as a scrivener at a law office on Wall Street in New York City. This indicates that his rebellion is passive rather than aggressive, much like the non-violent resistance found in the likes of Henry David Thoreau, one of...

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