Bartleby, the Scrivener By Herman Melville Character List

Bartleby Ousted from a clerkship at the Dead Letter Office in Washington, Bartleby becomes a conscientious, almost robotic law copyist who works for four cents per folio or every hundred words copied. His work suffers from the onset of a mental aberration which causes him to decline direct instructions from his employer, then lapse into periods of nonconformity and self-isolation. His lean face and calm gray eyes reveal no agitation — only the intransigence that leads to the story's conflict. At the time of his death, forlorn and solitary, he rejects food and normal human interaction.


The Lawyer A complacent, self-satisfied professional "conveyancer and title hunter," the narrator of the story, who is nearly sixty years old, refers to himself as "rather elderly." Imbued with the philosophy that the "easiest way of life is the best," he enjoys the rewards of the office of Master in Chancery along with property and some distinction among his Wall Street peers. Overly fastidious in matters of controversy, his usual methods of dealing with adversity are reason, monetary bribes, and withdrawal.

Ginger Nut The twelve-year-old office factotum, Ginger Nut, ambitious son of a van driver, runs errands, sweeps, and, for a dollar per week, performs other tasks common to office boys, including purchasing cakes and apples for the copyists.

The Grub-man An unctuous opportunist who provides quality food to people who can afford to pay for something better than ordinary prison fare.

Nippers A sallow-skinned, bewhiskered, dyspeptic malcontent of twenty-five, Nippers is neat, well dressed, and swift at his copying. He grinds his teeth and hisses over his work, frequently halting to readjust the height of his work table. His agitation subsides after the noon meal. A small-time ward politician, he does business at the justices' courts and the steps of the Tombs.

Turkey A sixtyish, corpulent Englishman, Turkey is gray-haired, short of stature, and red of face following his noon meal. A valuable copyist, he approaches a rebellious state every afternoon until around six o'clock by becoming reckless, combative, and messy in his columns. His clothing, like his work, reflects oily spills and the smell of restaurants.

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After three days on the job, Bartleby responds to his employer's work direction by saying,




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