Bartleby the Scrivener

Passivity Versus Rebellion: “Bartleby, the Scrivener” and Fight Club College

On the surface, Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” published in 1853, and Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, published in 1996, may seem completely at odds with one another, yet there are some similarities between the themes and characters of the works that are worthy of exploration. Both works begin with depictions of men who are disillusioned with the modern workplace and, in a broader sense, critical of the legitimacy of capitalism. The ways in which the two main characters react to this disillusionment, however, seem to exemplify two different philosophical ideals. Bartleby, the focus of Melville’s short story, is the epitome of passivity. Opposite to this, the unnamed narrator of Palahniuk’s novel is the face of organized rebellion. By comparing “Bartleby, the Scrivener” and Fight Club, readers may more thoroughly interpret the works as criticisms of the modern workplace and explore how these different ideological approaches exist as two sides of the same argument against capitalist societies.

In “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” readers witness the life and death of Bartleby, a scrivener, through the eyes of his boss, an unnamed Wall Street lawyer. It is notable that the story is told from the perspective of Bartleby’s...

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