Bartleby the Scrivener

Bartleby the Scrivener: The Painful Extraction of Genuine Compassion

Though the title may be Bartleby the Scrivener, Herman Melville's short story is much more concerned with its nameless narrator than its title character. Addressing one man's concept of himself and how that concept must be reevaluated when challenged by disruption, Bartleby depicts a man who misinterprets and rationalizes his own life so it is in accord with the ideals he aspires to. At his very core, the narrator is so terrified of confrontation that his reluctance limits his effectiveness as a leader. Nevertheless, he is able to convince himself his weakness is in fact a great quality he possesses, an enhancement upon his stellar leadership ability. The concept is explored throughout Bartleby via the narrator's description of himself, the bust of Cicero occupying space in his office, the narrator's handling of his regular employees, and, of course, his relationship with the troubled Bartleby. It is through the narrator's interpretation of that relationship that the full extent of his reluctance and rationalization is realized. More importantly, it is as a by-product of that rationalization that the otherwise absent concept of genuine concern for others is at last realized, its previous deficiency...

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