Bartleby and Berino Corene. The Employer’s problem
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Bartleby is about a lawyer who is overwhelmed by workload at his office to the extent that he needs an extra hand with writings thus calling for the need to post an advertisement for a scrivener. Lucky for him, he lands the resolute Bartleby who undertakes his duties at the office diligently to the admiration of the lawyer who lauds his good work unlike his two other scriveners: Turkey and Nippers. These two are the lawyers first headache at the workplace, Turkey for one, cannot work during the afternoons due to his old age but is strongly against his boss laying him off the job in the afternoons thus prompting the lawyer to delegate to him less serious documents for copying in the afternoon. Nippers on the other hand though of young age, has a temper and a stomach problem. Additional to that, he can only perform his duties in the afternoon when he is calmer and relaxed CITATION Mel90 p 7 l 1033 (Melville 7). Upon arrival at the office, Bartleby proves the opposite of the two as he works from morning to evening a thing that impresses the lawyer who sees for sure he had actually struck gold with this new scrivener but little does he know trouble is brewing for him in the future. Bartleby is a sheep ion a wolf’s skin; all his good work suddenly turns to total non-performance one single day when the lawyer is overwhelmed with duties at his office and calls upon him to assist with copying some of the documents causing a backlog at the office but he declines.
Irrespective of the lawyer’s need for a helping hand, he feels obliged to Bartleby’s request of, “I would prefer not to” as being utterly genuine and being said in a polite and respectful manner that he lets it pass for the first time CITATION Mel90 p 14 l 1033 (Melville 14). Little does he know he was laying the bed for more trouble to come in future tasks that Bartleby is called upon to undertake. “I prefer not to,” becomes Bartleby’s infamous mantra at the workplace when he is called upon to undertake any take called upon him by his employer and surprisingly enough the lawyer finds it very hard to reprimand this new weird behavior. In real sense, under any working setting, it is not the duty of the employee to decide on what tasks he/she should do and what they should not do; it is their duty to undertake all duties delegated to them assiduously. How politely and calmly Bartleby delivers his request for not undertaking any new tasks leaves the lawyer perplexed on whether he really should be asking Bartleby to undertake a specified task. However, this becomes overbearing when Bartleby reports to him that he would not be doing any more writings. Bartleby’s actions prompts the lawyer to clear his wage balances and ask him to leave.
Nonetheless, after clearance with his employer, Bartleby sticks around the workplace and makes it his home. It is problem to the lawyer for despite having terminated Bartleby’s contract, he sticks around at the workplace and to make matters worse transforms the workplace to his sleeping quarters. This comes to the lawyer’s attention one Sunday morning when he cannot fit his key into the door only for the door to be opened by Bartleby who politely asks him to return after a few minutes and he surprisingly finds himself abiding to the request. The lawyer believes that he is undertaking a noble cause by allowing Bartleby to stick around the office doing nothing but soon this behavior turns out to be a nuisance to the business and an eye sore to the coming and going customers thus prompting him to move his business to a new location considering the fact that Bartleby would ever leave irrespective of what actions are taken against him or how much he is coerced to do so CITATION Mel90 p 42 l 1033 (Melville 42).
Contrary to his expectation that by moving out he would have solved the Bartleby menace, he is accosted by a new tenant of the old building and by the police who leave Bartleby under his care. Bartleby continues his stubborn and withdrawal behavior to the extent that he refuses an offer of staying with the lawyer and later is taken to prison on vagrantly charges. Irrespective of the lawyers constant concern of trying to keep an eye on him while in prison, Bartleby refuses to take food offered to him while in prison resorts to sleeping under a tree at the prison yard where he meets hi final demise. In reality, the lawyer had tried all in his power to help a depressed Bartleby and he hand turned down the helping hand, it left the lawyer wondering if Bartleby’s previous employer’s: the Dead Letters had anything to do with his withdrawn lifestyle. He is transfixed to the disturbing connection in the conclusion of his narration describes it as, “Dead letters! Doe it not sound like dead men…. Sometimes from out the folder paper the pale clerk takes a ring—the finger it was meant for, perhaps, molders in the grave; a bank- note sent in swiftest charity—he whom it would relieve, nor eats nor hungers any more…on errands of life, these letters speed to death. Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity…CITATION Mel90 p 55 l 1033 (Melville 55)”
Different handling of Bartleby’s case
In reality, there is no better way how the lawyer could have handled Bartleby’s case for he just instantly transformed from being a hardworking individual to a lousy self-reserved introvert. Perhaps, one precaution that the lawyer should have undertaken before hiring Bartleby, would have been to perform a background check on his previous employment history or enquired directly form Bartleby himself his lifestyle/family background. There is no single place in the narration where we are told that the lawyer assessed the above competences from a recruit once he placed an advertisement out, he seemed too eager to sort out his firm issues that were at hand risking oblivion to other factors that affect the normal functioning of the business. Similarly, the same can be said about his lenient stance towards accommodating Bartleby’s ill behaviors even when they directly affected his business. It shall be argued that his morals came first when it came to handling issues purporting to Bartleby, nut what he should really done is instilled the real ideology of responsibility onto his employee as opposed to trying to find a solution to all his problems. There is this one specific stance in the narration that puts o question the lawyers helping hand, he himself noticed Bartleby’s miserable stat of life and withdrawal symptoms, why not sign him into a mental facility to get professional assistance as opposed to turning him into a mooch and accommodating his ill mannerisms.
Melville, Herman. Bartleby and Benito Corene . New York : Doven Publications , 1990.