Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic
MLA

Bibliography

Course Hero. "Bartleby the Scrivener Study Guide." Course Hero. 15 Sep. 2016. Web. 15 Nov. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Bartleby-the-Scrivener/>.

In text

(Course Hero)

APA

Bibliography

Course Hero. (2016, September 15). Bartleby the Scrivener Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 15, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Bartleby-the-Scrivener/

In text

(Course Hero, 2016)

Chicago

Bibliography

Course Hero. "Bartleby the Scrivener Study Guide." September 15, 2016. Accessed November 15, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Bartleby-the-Scrivener/.

Footnote

Course Hero, "Bartleby the Scrivener Study Guide," September 15, 2016, accessed November 15, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Bartleby-the-Scrivener/.

Bartleby the Scrivener | Quotes

Share
Share
1.

Bartleby was one of those beings of whom nothing is ascertainable.


Narrator

Before getting to the heart of the story, the narrator briefly introduces the title character. Even with the passage of time the narrator is still puzzled by the behavior of his former employee.

2.

A profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best.


Narrator

The narrator does not believe in conflict and is ready to take the easy way out. His actions show he strives to maintain the status quo of the capitalist system of Wall Street. It is this belief system that Bartleby challenges.

3.

All who know me, consider me an eminently safe man.


Narrator

This attribute has served the narrator well in terms of his business practice. However, he is not adept at managing his employees. He accepts their eccentricities because he judges their impact on his business to be minimal.

4.

I can see that figure now—pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn!


Narrator

The contrasting language of this quote highlights the complexity of Bartleby's character. Though the adverbs suggest his pitiful, ghostlike manner, the adjectives describe a decent person.

5.

I would prefer not to.


Bartleby

Bartleby uses this phrase throughout the story. While he declines politely, ultimately he only does what he chooses to do.

6.

Meanwhile Bartleby sat in his hermitage, oblivious to every thing but his own peculiar business there.


Narrator

Bartleby is indifferent to those around him, and his bizarre behavior emphasizes his isolation. His actions serve his intended purpose of shutting himself off from the world around him. The narrator's words also show his inability to truly try to understand his employee.

7.

Nothing so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance.


Narrator

Bartleby's form of resistance confuses and frustrates the narrator because he cannot understand why his employee will not respond to what he views as charitable actions on his behalf.

8.

It was his wonderful mildness chiefly, which not only disarmed me, but unmanned me, as it were.


Narrator

The narrator is unsure of how to deal with Bartleby. While he does get frustrated and even angry with Bartleby, the narrator continues to try to help him. He's more accustomed to working with more assertive types, and Bartleby's meekness serves as a threat to the narrator's more masculine and direct way of handling situations.

9.

It was his soul that suffered, and his soul I could not reach.


Narrator

The narrator feels pity for Bartleby and would like to help him. Despite his attempts at kindness and decency, the narrator is unable to reach Bartleby's soul, which is gripped by helplessness.

10.

The next day ... Bartleby did nothing but stand at his window in his dead-wall revery.


Narrator

The narrator sees that Bartleby stares out the window at nothing. This highlights Bartleby's isolation and ill health.

11.

I am not particular.


Bartleby

The narrator is making a last-ditch effort to find a job or situation that will work for Bartleby. He rejects a number of options, which shows he is indeed very particular.

12.

With kings and counselors.


Narrator

Upon discovering Bartleby's dead body, the narrator quotes from the Book of Job to the grub-man, as if comparing Bartleby to the Bible's most famous sufferer.

13.

Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!


Narrator

In the last lines of the story, the narrator reflects on the absurdity of Bartleby's life and of human existence.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Bartleby the Scrivener? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!