Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Herman Melville's Bartleby, the Scrivener. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
Bartleby: Plot Summary
Bartleby: Detailed Summary & Analysis
Bartleby: Theme Wheel
Brief Biography of Herman Melville
Historical Context of Bartleby, the Scrivener
Other Books Related to Bartleby, the Scrivener
- Full Title: Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street
- When Written: 1853
- Where Written: Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
- When Published: November and December of 1853, in Putnam’s Magazine
- Literary Period: American Romanticism
- Genre: Short Story, work-place drama/comedy/tragedy.
- Setting: 1850’s, New York, in a Wall Street law office.
- Climax: After refusing to vacate the office, Bartleby is imprisoned, where he then “prefers not to” eat.
- Antagonist: Bartleby
- Point of View: The story is told from the first-person voice of an unnamed narrator we know little about aside from the fact that he is an elderly lawyer, (and therefore he can be referred to as The Lawyer.)
Extra Credit for Bartleby, the Scrivener
Reference to a murder. In 1842, John C. Colt (referenced in the narrative of Bartleby) was convicted of the murder of printer Samuel Adams, to whom Colt owed money from the publication of a bookkeeping textbook. Although The Lawyer never mentions the specifics of this case in Bartleby’s narrative, this murder serves to underline Melville’s theme about language (and the written word itself) sometimes serving to disconnect people rather than connect them.
Unexpected inspiration. The main character of the film Accepted (played by Justin Long) is named Bartleby Gaines, a reference to Melville’s Bartleby.