Bartleby’s frequently repeated motto, “I would prefer not to,” echoes throughout the narrative. Always polite, never aggressive, Bartleby says “I would prefer not to” to an ever-increasing range of things as the story progresses. In short, Bartleby’s story is one of passive resistance, in which he refuses to do anything that he would prefer not to do.
Initially, Bartleby’s resistance seems to exist within a fairly common capitalist struggle: an employer (The Lawyer,…(read full theme analysis)
Bartleby, the Scrivener is set during a time when Wall Street was becoming ever more important as a financial hub of American society, a society that was itself being transformed by the increasing importance of capital and finance in an industrializing world. This transformation had many impacts, but one of them was the increasing prevalence of the sort of office workplace in which the story is set. In fact, if you want to push things…(read full theme analysis)
Through most of Bartleby, the Scrivener, The Lawyer treats Bartleby with what most reasonable people would describe as great charity. When he catches Bartleby in the office on the weekend and deduces that Bartleby must be secretly living there, The Lawyer is initially annoyed, but then realizes how lonely it must feel to live in a usually-busy office building while it’s completely empty during the weekend. Rather than fire or reprimand Bartleby, The Lawyer…(read full theme analysis)