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Bartleby the Scrivener Instant Short Story Text & Lesson Plans

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Item #:630ISS
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Bartleby the Scrivener Instant Short Story Text & Lesson Plans




Instant Resources for Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville!


Whether you're looking for a short story to pair with the novel you're teaching, or you need a 2- to 3-day sub plan to use with the stories in your textbooks, Prestwick House Instant Short Story Packs go beyond basic comprehension to help students learn how to analyze literature. 

Each downloadable pack addresses key skills through 5-10 standards-based analysis questions by guiding students through a series of scaffolding graphic organizers and in-class activities. 

This Instant Short Story Pack for Bartleby the Scrivener includes:

  • Scaffolding graphic organizers and in-class activities
  • Standards-based objectives
  • Introduction and pre-reading notes
  • Complete short story text
  • Rigorous analysis questions
  • Detailed teacher's answer guide


About Bartleby The Scrivener

“Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street” is as much a puzzle as it is a story. It is one of those stories for which the phrase “no one knows what it really means” is not an exaggeration. There have been dozens of supportable interpretations put forward to explain the story, as well as an equal number of unlikely interpretations.

Modern scholars often consider it a forerunner of absurdist literature. In philosophy, absurdism explores the conflict between a person’s desire to find the inherent meaning of life and his absolute inability to find any. Absurdist literature, then, focuses on characters who find themselves performing actions that are ultimately meaningless and serve no essential purpose in life.

The title character, Bartleby, is a scrivener, a person whose job is to make copies of important legal or business documents. By the time the narrator of this story employs Bartleby, the work of the scrivener was becoming obsolete. Carbon paper, which had been invented in Italy in 1801, would fairly quickly end the need to employ humans to make copies of documents. Not only was Bartleby’s occupation about to be rendered extinct by a sheet of carbon paper, the copies Bartleby was called on to make—and whose accuracy he was required to verify—were, ultimately, nonessential records of real estate and financial transactions. They were most likely destined to be filed away and never actually read.

Early in the story, the narrator tells the reader, “I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men’s bonds and mortgages and title-deeds.” Later, he admits about verifying the copies’ accuracy, “It is a very dull, wearisome, and lethargic affair.”

Some critics claim the story is an autobiographical allegory. At the time he wrote “Bartleby,” Melville was largely considered—and he considered himself—a failed writer. Perhaps Bartleby’s refusal to work reflects Melville’s dissatisfaction with his own work. Some of these critics even claim that Bartleby’s pointless job and his past in the dead letter office predict Melville’s eventual fate as a clerk in the New York customs office.