The narrator is a character in his own right, in fact, this story tells as much about Bartleby.
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The narrator's initial self-characterization is important to the story. He is a "safe" man, one who takes few risks and tries above all to conform. The most pragmatic concerns of financial security and ease of life are his priorities. He has made himself perfectly at home in the modern economy: he works as a lawyer dealing with rich men's legal documents. He is therefore an opposite or complement to Bartleby in many ways. He is also ill suited to be entrusted with the salvation of another.