There once was a small law practice office on Wall Street in New York City. In this office, an elderly man of about sixty years of age runs his small business with the help of several scriveners: Nippers, Ginger Nut, and Turkey. The scriveners are employed to write journal work and to help review the works of others with the lawyer. In his business, the elderly man helps the wealthy men of the city with their mortgages, bonds, and other financial problems. He is a lenient individual and stands firm in his Christian faith. Everything seems to be falling into place and to be going smoothly until Bartleby arrives. He was previously working at The Dead Office. The Lawyer decides to bring him in for hire. Little does he know, Bartleby is unlike any of the other copyists he has employed. He only wants to copy. He refuses to do the other work the lawyer asks him to do and consistently responds with, “I would prefer not to,” (Melville 26).
The small office provided jobs to Turkey, Nippers, and Ginger Nut before Bartleby arrives. Turkey is an Englishman around the same age as the lawyer. He has one major flaw: a drinking problem. In the book, it says “In the morning, one might say, his face was of a fine florid hue, but after twelve o’clock, meridian – his dinner hour – it blazed like a grate full of Christmas coals,” (Melville 19). Turkey is very useful before lunch hours, but after lunch, he becomes drunk and vague. He starts making mistakes such as dripping blots of ink on the papers he is copying. His alcohol problem clearly becomes a hindrance to his job and responsibility. The second copyist goes by the name of Nippers. Nippers is a rather young man and comes in around lunch to relieve Turkey. Nippers cannot be at work before lunchtime due to indigestion from unknown causes. He is particularly bothered when he makes mistakes while copying. He becomes irritable and impatient with the other men in the heat of business. The third scrivener is known as Ginger Nut. He is a young child around the age of twelve. His father helps him get this job before he died because he wanted his son to succeed. Ginger Nut’s duty for Turkey and Nippers becomes a cake and apple purveyor, (Melville 23). Both Turkey and Nippers have their flaws, but none were comparable to what is coming. One summer morning a young man described as being pallidly neat, pitiable, respectable, and incurably forlorn stands on his office threshold. This man’s name is Bartleby. He comes in, and the lawyer immediately notices that he is different. Bartleby indulges in the writings he is given and copies at a quick pace. The lawyer says, “But he wrote on silently, palely, mechanically,” (Melville 24). More here insert thesis
Throughout the story, Bartleby uses the statement, “I would prefer not to,” (Melville 30). several times. Every time the lawyer would ask Bartleby to do something other than copy, he responds with this statement. Surely, this extremely irritates the lawyer to pay Bartleby to work but he refuses to work. He does not want to get frustrated with Bartleby in the beginning, but the longer it goes on, the more he becomes sour. The lawyer deals with this behavior for a long time, and this makes Bartleby spoiled. He realizes that saying, “I would prefer not to” (Melville 35) is all he has to say to get his way. He can get out of doing any of the work he pleases without punishment. The lawyer treats Bartleby with a more than fair action. He is more lenient with him so that he might get some information out of him. He asks Bartleby about his family and receives no response. He asks Bartleby about his life prior to working there and still gets the same response: “I would prefer not to.” It has been said that Bartleby never once refuses to do anything he is asked to do. According to Beverungen, Bartleby does not refuse: “He exceeds this enforced choice. He simply prefers not to,” (Beverungen 10). With all of that being said, he can possibly be so kind to him in hopes for more information. In the long run, the lawyer hurts Bartleby because it allows him to do anything he wants without the risk of repercussion.
The lawyer treats Bartleby fairly. Some people even compare the kindness of the lawyer to Christ, and Bartleby to God’s children. Bartleby has previously worked in an office called the Dead Letter Office which symbolizes a person’s life before accepting Christ. Once someone accepts Christ, he is born again and has a purpose. Now that Bartleby has been taken in by the lawyer, he has experienced obvious comfort in the office. Towards the end of the novel, it is mentioned that Bartleby never leaves the place. Even when the lawyer tries to kick him out, he still will not leave which can be compared to the loyalty God’s children should have with him. Christians should cling to him in the darkest and brightest times, even when evil tries to cloud their view. The Bible tells about The Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. The victim has traveled a long way from Jerusalem to Jericho and is taken in by the Samaritan. The Samaritan takes care of him and makes sure he is okay (The Prudent Samaritan 359). This relates to the novel because Bartleby travels from Washington to New York in search of a job. This is where he is taken in by the lawyer. He takes care of him by giving him a job, a place to stay, and even food at times. This shows that Christians should love everyone, whether it be a neighbor, enemy, or friend. The Samaritan shows love by helping someone out that he did not even know. This relates to the novel because the lawyer is very impatient with Bartleby and is tempted to lose his cool. Instead, he helps him and tries to show him love and compassion. At the end of the story, the lawyer does several favors for the sake of Bartleby. When he first comes to work there, all of his flaws are overlooked. This goes for the other scriveners as well. Their flaws are always okay. Even after Bartleby is removed from the property of the office and taken to jail, the lawyer visits him and brings him some dinner. These actions show mounds of kindness because not only does Bartleby fail to do the work he is assigned, but also he lives on the property without permission or without even paying rent. The normal person would be furious and would probably lash out on Bartleby. The lawyer does just the opposite. He allows him to stay there even though he does not understand. He never forces him to do other work when he politely declines the tasks. Even when he is forcibly removed, he still shows kindness by visiting him in jail and making sure he was well taken care of. The lawyer even took the extent of kindness to pay off one of the lunchroom workers with his own cash just to make sure Bartleby was well fed. This is the kindness only the children of God can have. All flaws and mistakes are overlooked and exchanged for love.
The lawyer is a very patient and caring elderly man who only wants what is best for all of his scriveners. He is a compassion man and it shows throughout the entire text. It had to be very difficult for him to maintain a cool head while dealing with someone that uncooperative. He tries to be more than fair with his judgments. Bartleby is unlike the rest; he only wants to copy. The lawyer allowed him to do exactly that. The frequent repeating of the phrase,“I would prefer not to,” (Melville 25) becomes understood as a preference not a denial. He never refuses or denies any work; he just prefers not to do the work, and therefore, is never forced to. The lawyer’s kindness is similar to that of God’s. He is forgiving, unforceful, patient, and caring. He takes Bartleby in and cares for him beyond what he is required to do.