Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville

597 Words 3 Pages
“Bartleby, the Scrivener” is an interesting short story written by Herman Melville for Putnam's magazine at a time when Melville was in need for money (Davis 183). The narrator opens with a description of himself, his employees, and the fact that his business has recently grown. Soon after, the narrator, who is a lawyer, hires an additional employee by the name of Bartleby, the namesake of the story. He then proceeds to tell the reader all he knows of Bartleby: how he started off copying as desired; how he then “preferred not to” do the tasks that were asked of him; how he was eventually fired but refused to leave, even when the lawyer moved his practice; how he was put into prison; and how he died of starvation while incarcerated. The …show more content…
Secondly, we know the narrator to be the protagonist due to the fact that he is the one that experiences conflict in the story. According to Todd Davis, the lawyer is “a man who has been led toward a realization of his shortcomings by his encounter with Bartleby” (184). Furthermore, this “realization” has to do with the narrator’s struggle between “horological comfort” and “chronometrical ideals,” or, in other words, his struggle between secular and divine principles (Davis 185). Since the protagonist of a story is, by definition, the main character that goes through a conflict, we can thereby deduce that the lawyer is the protagonist of “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” To go further, the implication that the lawyer is the protagonist also suggests that Bartleby is the antagonist, and this truly is the case. Notably, we cannot possibly know the real true Bartleby as he would describe himself because we only know of the lawyer’s interpretation of him (Davis 184). This means that although Bartleby is the main focus of the narrative, he cannot be the main character. Additionally, Bartleby is the cause for the narrator’s strife, and this reinforces his antagonistic role even though he is not a “bad-guy” like some antagonists. In fact, Bartleby is more on the good side. The reader, like the narrator, feels compassion and sympathy for this poor soul, but, again, this is the cause for the