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The Doctrine of Assumptions: Narrator Bias in Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener

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Title:The Doctrine of Assumptions: Narrator Bias in Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener
Authors:Blair, Robert
Contributors:English (department)
Date Issued:15 Jan 2014
Publisher:University of Hawaii at Manoa
Abstract:Bartleby is one of Melville's most fascinating characters, and probably his most mysterious. When we attempt to come to some understanding of Bartleby's motivation and behavior, we become aware of a fundamental difficulty which plagues any attempt at analysis: We are informed at the outset of the lawyer's partial history of the scrivener that “Bartleby was one of those beings of whom nothing is ascertainable except from the original sources, and in his case those are very small.”1 Yet, by presenting the mysterious scrivener to us through the eyes of his employer, a man temperamentally unsuited to understanding Bartleby's odd behavior, Melville has succeeded in removing all the "original sources" that might have existed had the tale been related by an omniscient author. We are therefore left with the rather complex problem of having to examine the account presented by the lawyer to determine how much can be accepted by "the reader of nice perceptions" as containing valid information, and how much is faulty interpretation and mistaken opinion.
Pages/Duration:23 pages
Rights:All UHM Honors Projects are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: Honors Projects for English

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