Bartelby The Scrivener By Melville All literary works are written from a specific standpoint. This standpoint originates from the mind of the author. The author, when creating his literary work, has a specific diagram/plan and vision of what the story is supposed to convey. However, not all readers will interpret the literary work in the way that the author him/herself has presented it. Many times, in fact, the audience will perceive the literary work as having an entirely different meaning than what it was meant to have. The short story, Bartelby the Scrivener by Herman Melville, has been reviewed by several different critics as having several different standpoints.
These standpoints include Bartelby as a Psychological Double to the Narrator, an apostle of reason, having biblical ties, and as being Melville himself. A personal standpoint that proves to be different than those that have come before it is to perceive the story, Bartelby the Scrivener, as a story of family. Of all of these views and interpretations of the story Bartelby the Scrivener, none can be perceived as correct, except by the author. Furthermore, none can be seen as incorrect because literary works, unlike visual works of art, leave us the option to imagine. In fact, our interpretation of another critics thesis is merely a product of our views on their standpoints.
I say that only to justify that we are able to formulate our own opinions and form our own thesis just by reading the words on the page. Bartelby as a Psychological Double The critic of this standpoint is Mordecai Marcus. He feels that Bartelby is a paralleled character or a “psychological double” of the narrator. In his criticism of Bartelby the Scrivener, he writes: “I believe that the character of Bartelby is a psychological double for the storys nameless lawyer-narrator, and that the storys criticism of a sterile and impersonal society can best be clarified by investigation of this role.” – “Bartelby appears to be the lawyer chiefly to remind him of the inadequacies, the sterile routine, of his world.” (College English, pg. 68) Marcus is trying to say that Bartelby and the narrator have a sort of inter-connection.
Not as two separate entities, but as two separate personalities residing in one, viewing life from separate standpoints. This view that Marcus has on Bartelby (used as a short for the title), can easily be digested due to the descriptive nature of the story itself. The narrator, confidently from the very introduction of Bartelbys character, describes his every move and demeanors as if it was his own. He is able to successfully convey to the unidentified audience who Bartelby is, while managing to leave room for mystery within the character. The familiarity in the narrators description leads to a sort of justification of Marcus theory of the narrator and Bartelby as a “Psychological Double.” However, in order to successfully justify this theory, I believe that Marcus should have proceeded to convince his audience that the other characters, Turkey, Nippers, and Ginger Nut, are also alter personalities of the narrator.
They too were an intricate part of the narrators description. Each of these characters possessed several positive and negative qualities quite familiar to the narrator. I feel that it is inadequate for Marcus to solely choose Bartelby and leave out the other characters as alternate personalities. Critique of Reason The critic, R.K. Gupta, uses “reason” to justify his standpoint on Melvilles, Bartelby the Scrivener. Gupta writes: ” The unnamed narrator of “Bartelby, the Scrivener” is an apostle or reason. His outlook on life is clear, unambiguous, and uncluttered by mysticism or imagination.
Reason and common sense are his deities, and he looks upon them as infallible guides to human conduct.” (IJ of AS pg66) Guptas position on reason, like Marcus theory, is easy to digest. Throughout the story, the narrator makes it his goal to understand Bartelby. He yearns to have control over the situation merely by using reason. The narrator introduces himself by describing himself as a man who likes things to go easy. His references to not addressing the jury in court convey to the audience that he feels reasoning should be enough to convince an individual who may have doubts.
The narrator spends the length of the story trying to use reasoning as a method of understanding Bartelby; however, reasoning proved to be ineffective. What Gupta failed to mention in his opening statements towards reasoning is that the character, Bartelby, also had a clear outlook on life. Bartelby was a fairly straightforward man with his repetition of the words, “I prefer not to.” Bartelby also seemed to live uncluttered by mysticism and imagination. He did not request unattainable things. Although the audience may not have been clear as to what Bartelby wanted, we were definitely clear on what he did not want, or in the words of Bartelby, what he did not “prefer”.
Now looking at the previous theory in conjunction with the presently discussed theory, I could conclude that they are closely related; or at least that Guptas theory can serve as a smaller sub-theory to Marcus theory of the Psychological Double due to reasoning being a quality which one would like to possess. Bartelby having Christian Ties In the overall critique of the story, Bartelby the Scrivener, critic Steven Goldleaf makes reference to Bartelby as having biblical ties. In fact, he goes as far as saying that Bartelby represents Jesus Christ. In his critique, he writes: “Bartelby represents Jesus Christ, the master whose commandments the narrator ignores. Accepting his impending death calmly, Bartelby responds to his persecutors questions indirectly, but with omniscient contempt.” (RF to SF pg. 1) Goldleaf can be considered valid in his comparison of Bartelby to Christ.
From the introduction of his character, he holds a sort of mystic presence about him. He is also seen as the perfect hard working gentleman that the narrator had been waiting for, with the exception of resistance as the story went on. Bartelby also seems to have this unspoken confidence within his short-spoken vocabulary. Like Jesus, his actions and resistance was attacked upon in the story by the confusion/frustration of the narrator, and by Turkey who wanted to “blacken his eye”. I think that the clue in to a comparison Between Bartelby and the Jesus can be found at his introduction and his departure from the story.
His existence was like a quick wind, coupled with the fact that he led a very simple life requiring only the bare minimum of life. Like Jesus, he entered the story without much mention of how he got there, and departed the story by dying amongst thieves. What sealed this theory is one of the last words about Bartelby in the story, it reads: “Eh!-Hes sleep aint he?” “With Kings and counselors,” murmured I.” (Meyer pg 136) Bartelby is Melville “Melville was something of a Bartelby. Throughout his life, Melville felt himself an outcast from society and looked askance at Americas self-confident Republic. -..his fathers financial ruin and early death led to Melvilles years of aimlessness as a common sailor.
-*Melville ref …