The Short Stories of Herman Melville

This paper discusses characters who are rebels and nonconformists in the short stories of Herman Melville.

This paper explains that Herman Melville?s short stories, written during the mid-19th century in America, are examples of non-conformity, which would soon reflect the apex of society in 1861 when the country was drawn into the quintessential revolt of man against himself in the Civil War. The author points out that Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener, first published in 1853 , contains one of the prime examples of the Melvillian rebel, being Bartleby himself. The paper reviews other tales written by Herman Melville, that also contain rebellious and nonconformist characters: Benito Cereno, The Lightning-Rod Man, The Encantadas, and The Bell Tower.
Bartleby, the alienated man who lends his name to the story’s title, states several times that I would prefer not to in regard to doing his job as a scrivener at a law office on Wall Street in New York City. This indicates that his rebellion is passive rather than aggressive, much like the non-violent resistance found in the likes of Henry David Thoreau, one of Melville’s contemporaries. The mystery surrounding Bartleby’s strange behavior–why he chooses to rebel so completely yet so politely–is never revealed in the story, even though the unnamed, prosperous lawyer/narrator suggests that Bartleby may be the victim of extreme isolation from working in the government’s Dead Letter office. Thus, the ambiguity of Bartleby’s rebellion makes this tale more complex and leaves it open to many interpretations.