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Herman Melville's Bartleby, The Scrivener

Powerful Essays
The relationship between an author and a reader is a very influential and dynamic one. They each rely on each other and both are just as equally important in their roles. Herman Melville is an author who follows the philosophy of his audience’s powers of reading being just as important as his talents as a writer. Melville uses his writing skills to send allegorical messages to his audience, and it is the responsibility and power of the audience to decipher his meanings. This is evident in one of Melville’s most famous short stories, Bartleby, the Scrivener. The message of course, is Melville’s artistic frustrations and hardships with himself and his publishers during the time of the story being published. The title character of Bartleby could…show more content…
The reason for this is because, the narrator has a hard time figuring Bartleby out. The narrator sees that Bartleby is a lot more difficult to read. When something is hard to read, then the reader must keep reading to figure it out. Therefore, the narrator represents the act of reading in that, readers are intrigued by what is not easily read. The final few points can now be made that not only does the narrator represent the readers and reading itself, but that Bartleby is a symbol for the act of writing and is representative if Herman Melville himself. Bartleby is a scrivener, and a scrivener’s definition is, “A professional penman; a scribe, copyist; a clerk, secretary, amanuensis” (OED). So in simpler terms, a scrivener is a writer who makes a lot of copies. At this point in his career, Melville is past his prime and he knows it. His publishers want him to replicate or copy what he has already accomplished in the past. The publishers basically want Melville to make copies like a scrivener. Melville would rather keep his artistic integrity than gain even more wealth through taking the easy way out. The phrase that Bartleby starts stating again and again is, “I would prefer not to” (Melville 1109). That phrase and attitude then starts to seep in the consciousness of the other characters until they repeat it in some way, “Oh certainly, sir, if you prefer that I should” (Melville 1117). This is further allegory for writers copying a formula that is deemed financially successful. When the phrase is broken down to its most important component of the word “prefer”, some final clues are provided. The most relevant definition is, “To advance oneself or further one's interests or career; to set oneself up as superior to” (OED). This definition cements Melville’s pride in regards to his writing as well as highlight the firm
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