EXAM 2 2-20 thru 3-25 - Feb 20, 2009 Herman Melville,...

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Feb 20, 2009 Herman Melville, “Bartleby the Scrivener” (1853) “I prefer not to.” Melville’s career South Sea adventure stories (1846-1850) Moby-Dick , or The Whale (1851) Pierre , or The Ambiguities (1852) Short fiction, including “Bartleby the Scrivener” (1853-1856) The Confidence-Man (1857) Billy Budd (published posthumously in 1924) “Bartleby” and the Cubicle Culture (Dilbert, Office Space , etc.) Wall Street (profit, productivity, conformity) Soul-killing office routine triumphs even over the potentially individuating vices of Turkey, Nippers, Ginger Nut… Bartleby “prefers” not to proofread and soon anything else, even his job. Bartleby’s use of “prefer” is infecting the entire office and even the narrator. The lawyer offers money, his home, etc. to try to help Bartleby. Bartleby seems to contemplate what the lawyer has to say before replying. Bartleby grows to prefer not doing anything—not leave, not eat, not live. p. 1063 This is the first office cubicle described. “I resolved to assign Bartleby a corner by the folding-doors, but on my side of them, so as to have this quiet man within easy call, in case any trifling thing was to be done. I placed his desk close up to a small side-window in that part of the room, a window which originally had afforded a lateral view of certain grimy back-yards and bricks, but which, owing to subsequent erections, commanded at present no view at all, though it gave some light. Within three feet of the panes was a wall, and the light came down from far above, between two lofty buildings, as from a very small opening in a dome. Still further to a satisfactory arrangement, I procured a high green folding screen, which might entirely isolate Bartleby from my sight, though not remove him from my voice. And thus, in a manner, privacy and society were conjoined.” Melville plays with “Wall Street”.
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He reiterates the image of a “wall” the characters are pressed up against. The lawyer is proud of how the employees are boxed in. Turkey is a drunk and Nippers has chronic indigestion. These imperfections are more bodily, rather than conscious, signs of rebellion. Nippers struggles with getting the desk comfortable. Turkey uses a cookie to seal a document and is ready to fight after coming back from a drink. These actions indicate their unwillingness to completely reform. The errand boy’s identity is consumed by his task, earning himself the nickname Ginger Nut. The bodily resistances to the office become so routine, the office works around them and manages to incorporate the quirks. But Bartleby can’t be incorporated.
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This note was uploaded on 09/26/2009 for the course ENG 316K taught by Professor Kruppa during the Spring '08 term at University of Texas at Austin.

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EXAM 2 2-20 thru 3-25 - Feb 20, 2009 Herman Melville,...

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