Books and Movies Reviews

Aspects of Narration and Metaphor in Melvilles Bartleby the Scrivener

Herman Melville examines the complexities of human character in his
short story, “Bartleby the Scrivener.”By using strong metaphors, Melville
illustrates the difficulties we encounter when we attempt to communicate
with someone.Additionally, Melville demonstrates how human beings can
affect each other in ways through the narrator’s experience with Bartleby.
Melville uses many metaphors in this story.For instance, the use of
walls is a predominant image that is used to describe the nature of the
business world.We are told the narrator’s office, “looked upon the white
wall of the interior of a spacious sky-light shaft” (Melville 992) and “the
other end of his office viewed a “lofty brick wall” (992).We also know
that there are “glass folding-doors” (996) that divided the narrator from
his scriveners.In addition, we also know that the narrator placed an
“high green folding screen” (997) between him and Bartleby.This entire
setting provides us with the image of the office and working conditions as
well as the narrator’s mindset toward his workers.The walls represent the
stagnant, dead-end nature of the work that the scriveners performed and the
glass doors and screen signify the narrator’s desire to control situations.
Additionally, the narrator is a metaphor for capitalist society and the
law and order that exists in such circumstances.Bartleby can be seen as a
metaphor for a nonconformist attitude.Melville does an excellent job in
portraying both characters in contrast to each other in the story.In many
ways, we feel sympathy for the mysterious Bartleby and an irritation toward
However, it is Bartleby’s behavior that has a direct affect on the
narrator.Because Melville is telling this story from the narrator’s
perspective, we are allowed to witness his transformation.We know from
the beginning of the story that he lacks ambition and seeks nothing abov…


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