Bartleby the Scrivener


“God be praised: there even Gimpel cannot be deceived” indicates that Gimpel finally realizes that God is the only being you can trust. The earthly world is full of deceitful people. Gimpel learned that by having faith in God and ignoring the ignorance of others, that he really is fooling them. Important advice from the rabbi would help Gimpel to overcome his hardest challenge close to the end of the story. “It is written, better to be a fool all of your life than for one hour be evil. You are not a fool. They are the fools. For he who causes his neighbor to feel shame loses Paradise himself” (746).


The “Devil” came to Gimpel and persuaded him to urinate in the bread dough to get back at all those people who had shamed him. Although the “Devil” tried to fool Gimpel by telling him there was no God, his faith guided his conscience and he could not bear to sell the urinated bread. This is the point where Gimpel has overcome his biggest trickery and, for once, he was not the fool.


“Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!” represents the narrators liberation from Bartleby and his insufficient appreciation of his own life or existence. Like Bartleby, the narrator lives in a similar state of isolationism, in that he neglects his own life and well-being. Although the narrator was aware of Bartleby’s hermetic ways, he some how becomes obsessed with his life of seclusion. His obsession of Bartleby diverts him away from his duties as a supervisor. Even though the narrator disapproves of Bartleby’s lack of effort, he does very little to discourage his behavior. “Again I sat ruminating what I should do. Mortified as I was at his behavior, and resolved as I had been to dismiss him when I entered my office, nevertheless I strangely felt something superstitious knocking at my heart, and forbidding me to carry out my purpose, and denouncing me for a villain if I dared to breathe one bitter word against this forlornness of mankind”(613). The narrator becomes infatuated with the idea that if he were stern with Bartleby or society then he would be viewed as a terrible person. The narrator is successful, but wimpy.


Both Gimpel and the narrator of Bartleby the Scrivener were both played as fools. Almost every person that Gimpel came in contact with deceived him. Especially his wife, the one person he was supposes to confide in and trust more than anyone else. Bartleby played the narrator for a fool. Bartleby refused to work and the narrator did very little to discipline him. Instead, the narrator became concerned with Bartleby’s words and state of mind.


Although in the end, Gimpel and the narrator from Bartleby the Scrivener, appeared to be happy, neither confronted the people who meddled in their lives. Instead, Gimpel packed his things and his children and moved out of Frampol. Gimpel was afraid to stand up for himself and he took the easy way out of town. Despite Bartleby’s inadequate verbal communication and accomplishments he gains control over the narrator. The narrator starts to lose control over the office and contributes less. Finally the narrator avoids all confrontation with Bartleby and moves his office. After Bartleby is incarcerated, the narrator finds himself visiting him. This shows how the power of Bartleby’s disposition controlled the narrator’s actions.


These last lines seem to show a sense of relief in each of the characters. Now that Bartleby’s dead the narrator is no longer obsessing and wasting time on trying to figure him out. Gimpel moved away and is no longer forced to deal with insults each day. He has finally gain kindness from people. They both feel a sense of release now that their burdens seem so far away.