Bartleby, The Law Clerk
A Modern Adaptation of the Short Story Bartleby, The Scrivener.
By Herman Melville.
This contemporary retelling of Melville’s short story centers around an unnamed narrator, a lawyer who takes interest in a new legal clerk he hires named Bartleby. Though at first highly productive, Bartleby soon grows lifeless and despondent, preferring not to complete basic work tasks when asked and instead staring vacantly out the office’s lonely windows all day. Despite the narrator’s mounting frustration and confusion at Bartleby’s eccentric defiance, he makes ongoing efforts to accommodate and help the non-compliant clerk. However, Bartleby’s deepening detachment from standard social expectations creates chaos in the office and tries even the narrator’s patience and empathy. When Bartleby refuses to leave the premises, he is eventually imprisoned, where he simply retreats further into himself and decline amidst the narrator’s best attempts, wasting away while facing a blank wall in silent protest of a world and reality he rejects entirely. This poignant psychological portrait examines isolation, alienation from societal norms, and the limits of one’s responsibility toward those who repel support or solutions.