Kelly's Writing

Queens College

Bartleby the Scrivner and Murray

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly Santana at 2:54 am on Tuesday, November 8, 2016

When reading Melville’s short story, I was really interested in how the characters and the narrator viewed and tried to understand Bartleby’s behavior. And the word “Neuro-typical” rattled around in my head as I read. Throughout the story, the narrator is troubled by his new scrivner, who never does what is asked of him by saying, “I would prefer not to.” Murray writes that Melville’s story may entail “neurobehavioral difference”. The narrator addresses and deciphers the people around him by his “normal” standards. That’s when this idea of neuro-typicality came into mind. The narrator served as the neuro-typical person by which every other character was measured. The narrator is taken back by Bartleby’s odd behavior; “In his confused attempts to explain Bartleby’s behavior, the narrator works through different categories of potential norms in order to establish a meaning for his employee’s actions” (54). The narrator attempts to understand Bartleby by comparing him to his neuro-typical behavior/characteristics. The narrator sets up this standard for figuring out himself and those around him, which to me, seems quite odd. Is this the standard by which people view and assess others? People who are “neuro-typical” assess others who appear behaviorally “deviant” based on how they are and what they define as “normal”? Am I making sense here? I’m confusing myself the more I write. But I just found it interesting how Melville’s character interacts with his employees by measuring them on his “normal” scale.I thought Murray’s points about the story were worth mentioning and discussing.




November 8, 2016 @ 11:41 pm

I liked how you pointed out that the narrator measures people on his normal scale. This is something we’re all probably guilty of doing daily.I really like squirrels but I saw a girl on campus today singing to a squirrel and playing a drum for him and my friend and I were like that’s super weird. But maybe that was normal by her standards and the squirrel’s standards too. It wasn’t really my place to judge, and the squirrel seemed to be happy. So, yeah, we all judge people just like the narrator judged Bartleby.Sometimes we don’t have context and sometimes we just have preconceived notions that factor into our judgements.


   Michelle Coleman

November 9, 2016 @ 1:18 am

YES! Going off of what Zahava said, I totally agree that the narrator is a stereotypical neurotypical that judges everyone else based off of how “normal” they are. I really don’t think we have any evidence to judge Bartleby and label him in any way based off the interpretation of his actions by someone else, either. The narrator just really bugged me because he talks so much about how strange everyone else is, without discussing his own flaws– which also makes him a boring character. I understand the idea of seeing things through his own eyes, and if he’s self-centered or just judgmental, then we see his world that way. BUT I still don’t appreciate it. I think that the narrator of Bartleby definitely represents this stereotype of neurotypicals that perhaps a lot of us can fit into, even when we try to be accepting. We just can’t help it. No, wait. We CAN help it; we just have been trained otherwise. Perhaps our experiences (even this course) can help us become more accepting and overall helpful– and I hope that the narrator became this way after the story ended.



November 9, 2016 @ 4:14 pm

I actually kind of disagree with Michells and Zahava. I don’t think that the narrator judges everyone through a lens that castigated “weird” people as Other. Just consider the fact that his original two assistants, Turkey and Nipper, are also pretty strange and do things that don’t seem to mesh with reality quite well and are otherwise unexplainable. But to our narrator, it’s totally normal and he just accepts it and finds it normal. There’s something about Bartleby specifically that rubs him the wrong way, and honestly I can’t even articulate what that is exactly.



November 14, 2016 @ 12:57 am

After having a brief discussion of Bartleby I too started thinking of what it means to be neurotypical. Is it normal behavior to want to always understand other people and their behaviors, mannerisms, etc? We kinda touched upon the fact that we’re not supposed to understand what’s going in Bartleby’s head…but that doesn’t stop us, or shall I say me, from wanting to know what the hell is going on in there. I’m also interested in the “normalcy scale” is this a real phenomenon? This also has a lot to do with the other question of the necessity of figuring out other people and if we can’t understand they become the “other” it’s kind of interesting to me… what do you guys think?


   Asheka Lawrence-Reid

November 22, 2016 @ 8:03 am

Hi Kelly! Your post had some good insight in its reference to the “normal scale”. It is true that the Lawyer does attempt to measure how normal Bartleby is, in fact, he does this with his other employees as well. I think that we can learn something about ourselves from this. It is common for us to measure others on a scale of what we determine to be normal. This is not only true for assessing neurological behavior, but also about race, gender, sexuality, etc. This is why it can be good for us to read and try to interpret texts like these, so that we can learn something about ourselves and ways that we can begin to appreciate the other for their difference.


   James Marone

November 25, 2016 @ 8:01 pm

You are definitely onto something here, so don’t doubt yourself! I too had the term neurotypical banging around as well as the action of comparison as you describe. It would seem that this is the standard by which people do judge others. Although many of us may not be fully aware that we do this, it surfaces more frequently than we think. Any of us who ever thought something or someone was “crazy.”

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