Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street by Herman Melville

Essay by laprincesa713High School, 11th grade April 2007

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What assumptions govern the question that the narrator asks Bartleby: "What earthly right have you to stay here? Do you pay any rent? Do you pay my taxes? Or is this property yours?In the story, Bartleby, by Herman Melville, Bartleby's eccentric personally forms the foundation of his story. The author's relation to Bartleby is formed when he hires Bartleby to work for him. While at first, Bartleby seemed like an ideal employee, he soon transforms into a ridiculous person. The narrator's encounters and association with Bartleby changes him through the course of the novel and eventually Melville begins to assume different things about Bartleby.

"What earthly right have you to stay here?" The narrator is asking what right does Bartleby really have to stay there, which he does not. "Do you pay any rent?" Bartleby does not. "Do you pay my taxes?" Bartleby does not.

"Or is the property yours?" No, it is not a possession of Bartleby. He does not pay rent, he does not give any money to the narrator nor does he own the property himself. Also, he has stopped doing his work giving him no purpose in that office. There is no earthly connection between Bartleby and that office at this point in the story. For spiritual reasons, the narrator feels that he cannot just kick Bartleby out, but he realizes that Bartleby has no real purpose there anymore. Before, Bartleby did his job as a scrivener, but now, he refuses to do that.

Bartleby has no right to remain in that office, yet he does. The narrator came to realize that he had no real purpose there. Bartleby does not supply any financial aid to the narrator in the least, but it is rather the opposite. The narrator pays...