miércoles, 6 de marzo de 2013


"Barleby," again.  I have to confess that I don't like this story. It's dark and oppressive, it leaves us with no anwers. Why does Bartleby refuse to write?  Is the story a reflection of Melville's own disillusionment with wrting after when, after he published his masterpiece Moby Dick in 1851, he was ignored by the public until his death? The story is one of the most nihilisitic literary texts, nihilism being, according to the OED,  " a total rejection of current religious beliefs or moral principles, often involving a general sense of despair and that life is without meaning-" Doesn't this sound familiar? This is exactly what our society is going through at the moment: we find no sense in life, many people feel they have nothing to live for, when they are being expelled from their houses for not paying their mortgages. Bartleby also lets himself die: he refuses to care about money, food or drink. Is he thus subverting the conventions of Calvinistic capitalism of the Wall Steet setting of the story?  It might be worth noting that the equivalent of the 15-M Spanish movement is called "Occupy Wall Street. Bartleby stubbornely rejects any kind of authority: "I would prefer not to," an enigmatic formula: he neither refuses, nor does he accept; his phrase is intriguinly ambiguous. Many people act and speak in similar ways nowdays.
The text with its open ending puts forward doubts and different intepretations. Melville introduces a mysterious passage which provides certain biographical information about Bartleby. What do these letters have to do with Bartleby's behaviour? What is the meaning of his last words in the story (Ah Barleby! Ah humanity!) And you, what do you think about Barleby? And about the narrator-lawyer? What is your own interpretation of the story?

8 comentarios:

  1. Barleby the scrivener is an strange story, which leaves us with no answers. Once we read the story, because of the open ending we wonder what are the reasons for his behaviour or what do the letters have to do with that behaviour.
    Something that impressed me was the answer to every request from the narrator "I would prefer not to". However, he continues doing what the narrator wants to. It's like a contradition.

    And there are some things that I don't really understand, like that behaviour, saying that he prefers not to do what the narrator wants him to do, or why did he stay at the office once the narrator-lawyer had move away. I think Bartleby has a secret reason for all these things and behaviour and that's also the reason why he does not have anything to live for. This really intrigue me
    I also agree with you that this sounds familiar for everybody because of the nowadays situation of our country. There are a lot of people with no hope or dreams or things to live for.

  2. Patricia Rabadán Medina

    From my point of view, "Bartleby" is very different from what we have read. Although it connects with some aspects we have already studied, Melville deals with different topics, writing against the system of his time. Therefore, I believe the character of Bartleby represents exactly what Melville thought about capitalism and imprisonment. In fact, with Bartleby, he is creating an imaginary symbol of revolution that fought against that system, refusing to follow its laws.

    Another thing is the way he wrote the story. Personally speaking, I've enjoyed reading the story: its characters, its originality and of course, the famous response "I would prefer not to". The ending of the story is open and a lot of interpretations could be possible. Indeed, I think it has an explanation, and it is Melville the only person who knew it.

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  4. Bartleby the scrivener is, personally speaking, an interesting novel, as it differs from the previous novels we have read. I have liked it because of the natural language Melville uses, and because it caugth my attention during all the book. Moreover, the engimatic formula "I would prefer not to" is a phrase that makes the reader think and search an answer. I think the fact that the book leaves us without answers is what lets us think about it.

    I strongly feel that the author has perfectly well critiziced the oppresive system in which society is living. You do not realize what the critic is until you finish reading the book, so I think he hides the critic but make people interpret the story.

    To finish with, from my point of view, it is a good book to read nowadays, as we can find so many relations between the situation Spain is living now and the story.

    Eva Marín Caballero


    In my point of view, this book is very stunning for his time, it was very revolutionary and maybe, for this reason, people does not buy this book... This story was very interesting and surprising because it is very different from the other texts we have read before. Here, there is no mention about "the best thing is being yourself, do not care about what people think about you,...". Here, we have the opposite. Bartleby refuses the capitalism and Calvinist society. He represents Melville's opinion about capitalism's society. As you said, he does not want to do anything, he does not care about anything. However, for these reason, Bartleby died. So, we could think "being different could kill us".

    I think this story reflects our society. Nowadays, young and, not so young people, cannot find a meaning for their lives, above all, youngsters. They don't really know what they want to be but my question is "how can we know it? In Spain, nothing is good, any kind of job. Why should I study if after finishing it I will not find any job? Politics do not help us, the only thing they can do is "depriving" everything. For me, it has no sense! I think Bartleby could represents our society because he reflects the conflicts between the different social status and the rejection of the injustice. I don't really know the purpose of it because of the open ending. I think Melville wanted we choose our own way and, if you don´t like what does the society is doing, do not follow the mass. He represents the revolutionist, we must be ourselves. Here, we can see a connection with Emerson "be yourself, never imitate".

  6. Sonia Berzosa Molina18 de marzo de 2013, 19:18

    I enjoy this story, maybe because it's different. It's not the typical story in which every thing is explained at the end. I think that the author want his readers think and have their own opinion and ideas about it. And I have thought with this story.

    I think that Bartleby is the example of the most extreme way of going against the system. In my opinion, he is totally against the capitalist and materialism society of the 19th century, and it is shown when he refuses EVERYTHING. I think it's very extreme because he prefers to die than to live in a world like that, something that can be very absurd.

    When we said in literature class that the lawyer was the opposite of Bartleby, I'm not so sure about it.. Maybe he shows the materialism and the importance of working, but I think that a really materialist person doesn't care about other people, as the lawyer did. But it's true that it represent the active and working world from the passive one.

    I think the story is a bit sad, because the lawyer is always worried about Bartleby, and also feels responsible of his "non-action", while Bartleby doesn't care about what people say and continue until death with his nihilism. But I think that I liked the story because I understand a bit Bartleby's position, that materialism isn't good at all and that people lose the idea of "humanity", always thinking on working and money, instead of their lifes.
    Poor Bartleby...

  7. First of all, I should say that this story surprised me as it is very different from we have already read. I enjoyed the story because I liked the way Bartebly kept the reader interested on it. By repeating 'I would prefer not to' the reader is willing to find an answer. Nevertheless, what I did not really like about it is that no answers were giving to the reader. Maybe it is because Melville wanted the reader to think about it and take their own conclusions. At the end, we do not really know if the death of Bartebly is a victory or a failure of the system.

    Personally speaking I feel that, although Meville seems a little bit pesimistic while writing this story, he criticizes so well the capitalist system and pressures people had to suffer.

    Finally, I would like to say that maybe another reason why I was really interested while reading the story was because I found some similarities with today's society. A period in which people do not really know what is their role in society, they do not have anything(no home,for instance) and they might not find the real meaning of life because future seems to be a pessimistic one.

    Teresa Fernández Martín

  8. Concerning the story, I have to say that a part of me liked it, as it is completely different from what we have read in class, and also, in not many pages it has the capacity of holding huge information, senses and questions. But it is too dark and and have a very pesimistic view of humanity, in my opinion. It is true that even nowadays our system of values is not the better one, most people look only for materialistic things and do not question what is going on with the capitalism and with society (well, until many years ago, now the strikes show different things: people have been submited too much by capitalism that they lose their houses and many other disgraces, they lose faith and do no have any kind of hope in our state).
    I found very interesting all what is concerned about existentialism and nihilism, I like the way it has been represented by "I would prefer not to", with only those words you can feel something is going wrong. And the reason why Bartleby gets this attitude remains mysterious.
    I have read something interesting about this story, that Bartleby has been compared to the Christ. He sacrifies himself for people sins. People wanting more money and are part of the materialistic world (like the lawyer), so Bartleby sacrifies himself to the progress of modern life.

    Teresa Casanova Urquijo