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Bartleby: The Scrivener

             Bartleby: The Scrivener was written by Herman Melville in the 1850s. When the story was first published, like so many other works of the time, it was published in a magazine that was read by both the middle and upper classes. The story was meant to sell, it was not meant solely as a piece of literature, rather, it had to make the magazine money as well. I believe this is the reason that the story ends the way it does, with a small paragraph which sounds more like an afterthought than a concluding passage and which is an attempt at giving an explanation to the enigmatic Bartleby.
             Throughout Bartleby the reader is lead to ponder many questions; none of which is more pressing than who is Bartleby? Until the last paragraph the reader is able to draw clear parallels between Bartleby's actions and the desires of the overworked lower-class. Bartleby works as a scrivener or "human copying machine" on Wall street. His job is banal, monotonous, and mindless. Everyday is the same for him and it is understandable when, a few weeks into the job, he starts "preferring" not to do the work. Melville gives us no explanation for Bartleby's actions either at the beginning or the end of the book, that is, until the last paragraph. When the narrator tells us a "rumor" he has heard. "The report was this: that Bartleby had been a subordinate clerk in the Dead Letter Office at Washington. Dead letters! does it not sound like dead men?" The answer is that no, dead letters and dead men sound nothing alike and that Melville is trying to create an answer to why Bartleby acted the way he did to appease the public. If it is not obvious enough though that there is a clear connection to the office where all of the dead letters go and Bartleby, Melville belabors the point by suggesting that the words letters and men some how sound alike. .
             Another way to approach the last paragraph would be to read it as if it were the narrator writing it, not Melville.

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