The narrator in “Bartleby the Scrivener” is an elderly man who has experience and feels that he knows himself. He states he is “a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best.” He knows what his principles in life are and has decided that he should live with as little conflict as possible.
The narrator describes his workers, Turkey, Nippers, and Ginger Nut, in humorous ways. For example, Turkey has “inflamed ways” and Nippers is ” the victim of two evil powers?”ambition and indigestion.” The narrator continues to work with his staff, probably because he is used to these characters, and does not want to have to deal with change. He is a person who is used to regular habits. Then, Bartleby arrives and presents a situation that is unexpected and challenging.
In the beginning, the narrator is satisfied with Bartleby’s work. When Bartleby starts to respond “I prefer not to,” the narrator cannot decide what to do. The narrator is probably shocked by Bartleby’s replies, and this makes his life completely out of routine. First, the narrator tries to reason with himself, and does not fire Bartleby, saying, “He is useful to me.” He wants to show that he, the narrator, is a person who cares. Even though he says that Bartleby has “become a millstone,” but he still feels sorry for the scrivener. The narrator thinks that he is the one who can help Bartleby and save him from other employers who might mistreat Bartleby.
When Bartleby’s actions begin to affect the office’s reputation, the narrator still does not want to confront the situation. Instead of removing Bartleby, the narrator leaves. He shows that he is a professional who is expected to look after the interest of others. But even though the narrator tries to move forward, Bartleby still haunts him. When Bartleby is imprisoned, the narrator continues to show that he is concerned about Bartleby. He visits until the end, when Bartleby dies.
It is hard to tell what the true character of the narrator is, because the story is told from his point of view. He might be truly a person who is sympathetic and shows real concern for other human beings. However, the words and ways he talks about different characters, it is possible that the narrator is actually focused on himself. He does good deeds, maybe because it boosts his self-esteem. Regardless of what his real intentions are, the narrator’s experience with Bartleby certainly affects his view of life.