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Jun 18, 2012

Discussion questions for Bartleby the Scrivener


Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville

Here are a few prompts for discussion or journal writing....

If you were the narrator, how would you have handled Bartleby's situation? is the narrator responsible for Bartleby's fate? 

Who is the protagonist? Who is the antagonist? 

Characterize the narrator: good qualities, bad qualities, weaknesses, and narrative reliability. Does he change by story's end? 

What is significant about setting the story in Wall Street? 

SYMBOLISM & Other interpretations

What is Bartleby symbolic of? 

Walls, walls, and more walls. Explain the symbolism of the walls, screens, etc.

Is Bartleby a critique of capitalist society?

Is it Melville's semi-autobiographical tale of artistic resistance to commercial conformity?

Is it about the inability and impossibility of mutual understanding? 

Does Bartleby expose the ideology of individual freedom (and self reliance) as myth? 

What happens to individuals when they assert their will (positively or negatively) in ways that conflict with social norms of behavior? 

Discuss amongst yourselves in the comments....