by Herman Melville | Grades: 8-12 | Ages: 14+
About Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville
Herman Melville towers among American writers not only for his powerful novels, but also for the stirring novellas and short stories that flowed from his pen. Two of the most admired of these--"Bartleby" and "Benito Cereno"--first appeared as magazine pieces and were then published in 1856 as part of a collection of short stories entitled The Piazza Tales.
"Bartleby" (also known as "Bartleby the Scrivener") is an intriguing moral allegory set in the business world of mid-19th-century New York. A strange, enigmatic man employed as a clerk in a legal office, Bartleby forces his employer to come to grips with the most basic questions of human responsibility.
"Benito Cereno," considered one of Melville's best short stories, deals with a bloody slave revolt on a Spanish vessel. A splendid parable of man's struggle against the forces of evil, the carefully developed and mysteriously guarded plot reveals the horror and depravity of which man is capable.
Biographical Note About Herman Melville
Herman Melville (1819-1891) found early success with stories inspired by his adventures in the South Seas. His fortunes declined with the 1851 publication of Moby-Dick, now recognized as a masterpiece but scorned by Melville's contemporaries. The author was obliged to work as a New York City customs inspector and died in obscurity, three decades before the critical reassessment of his work.