Look on the Bright Side | Bartleby, the Scrivener

2101 words (8 pages) Essay in English Literature

18/05/17 English Literature Reference this

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The world is full of all sorts of different people. The differences are really what keeps’ the world revolving because of all the different ideas that comes from these people. But even though the world if full of all different types of people it isn’t until you look closer that everyone is actually a lot more similar than one could image. Two stories that were a part of our English 202 class, “Look on the Bright Side” and “Bartleby, the Scrivener” look completely different from the titles. But as we learned about these stories we found out that the authors of these two stories happened to write about similar things even though the stories were punished in different centuries. The quote “Don’t judge a book by its’ cover is true” because this paper shows that the similarities seem to out-weigh the differences.

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Dagoberto Gilb had been raised in a broken home and had attended college but could never hold down a “white-collar job.” Since Gilb could not keep a job he had worked odd jobs as a skilled carpenter and decided to keep a journal about his experiences. The language that was used in “Look on the Bright Side” was simple and conversational like. Gilb explained his thoughts in a way that one to comprehend and actually find something in common with (Charters 451). Actually some of the conversation in the book was similar to some of the conversation my parents would have at their home.

“Bartleby, the Scrivener” was the longer of the two stories. It was about a man who owned his own business and was looking for a new employee. He ended up having troubles with his new employee, Bartleby, and had to figure out how to deal with the situation. The narrator had to attempt several different strategies to try to get Bartleby to leave and/or quit but nothing seemed to work.

The story “Bartleby, the Scrivener” was written by Herman Melville who had never attending college and actually grew up working on a whaling ship. He had written several short stories about his experience on the boat and actually said that “a whale shit was my Yale College and my Harvard”(Charters 877). Melville had chosen to write this story because he was trying something new with his writings; his previous writings had failed. The language that Melville chose to use was sophisticated and educated and the sentences were longer, almost to the point of run-ons of the narrator’s thoughts. This story was defiantly a little bit harder to get through reading and some of the parts had to be read twice to fully understand.

Even though these two stories have differences there are a few similarities that can be found within them. For instances both stories deal with someone trying to find a job, details about different characters that the narrators come into contact with and characters that the story has in common. The following will describe the similarities of each story.

Looking for work seemed to be an issue in each story. In “Look on the Bright Side” the narrator was the one looking for job to support his family. The economy was bad and the narrator had been laid off from work because his job had gone bankrupt. The narrator made the mistake of not trying to find a job right away because he had been laid off before. He thought that he was taking advantage of having a break from work and going on vacation with his family, but that was obviously not the right decision at that time because at the end of the story he was still out of work. In “Bartleby, the Scrivener” the narrator was looking for help in his office. The narrator was already a successful scrivener and had already employed a few men that he had been working with him for years. I feel that the narrator made his mistake in the story when he went about finding office help the way he did. Instead of the narrator setting up interviews for the position and placing the most appropriate candidate he placed an ad in the paper and waited for a reply. Bartleby showed up at the narrators’ office one day for the job and the narrator continued to ask him a few questions about the job. Even though the narrator was hesitant about hiring Bartleby because he seemed shy he thought he would give Bartleby a chance. In most situations I don’t think that the employer would hire someone that they weren’t too sure about.

Great detail mentioned in both stories about the people that each narrator had come into contact with became the second biggest similarity. In “Look on the Bright Side” the narrator seemed to give greater detail about the people who were not directly involved in his life and less detail of the ones who were. First there was Mrs. Kevovian, who was the narrators’ landlord. He described her as being “ignorant, nasty, and hard to communicate with”(Gilb 452). The narrator described her to be this way because he has mixed feeling about her trying to raise the rent. The next person was the lawyer, Mr. Villalobos, who the narrator described in a way of being a fake Yassir Arafat. The narrator wasn’t to sure about the lawyer because he thought that the lawyer was helping the wrong side. The main two people that were described in great detail were a bum across the street from the library and a man named John. The bum was introduced as being loud and then his physical character was described. He looked like “Einstein” with a “great, long beard and had hair like a wise man”(Gilb 459) and his clothes were a mess as if he had not had a chance to shower in years. John was sketchier and talked nervously and jerked without pausing. He opened up to the narrator without hesitation; it was as if he was just happy to have someone to talk to.

In “Bartleby, the Scrivener” the narrator gave great detail about his employees such as what they wore, how they looked, and even what their personality was like at different times of the day. The narrator had worked with his three employees for many years, he knew everything about them. He even knew what mood each employee was going to be in at what time of the day. This story went into even greater detail about each person that the narrator had come into contact with; it was if nothing about a character was missed. It seemed as if the author of the story wanted the reader to really get a feel for the people that were in the story and then he eased into the main point of the entire story.

Lastly, I feel like I found each story had a little bit of “craziness” within it. The craziness that appeared in “Look on the Bright Sides” was towards the end when the narrator was outside of the library and John had came and sat by him who reminded the narrator of a “hippie” and then there were the bums across the street who were either rolling on the ground or yelling at the top of their lungs. In “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” Bartleby seemed to be the crazy one to an extent. He came into the job giving a loyal feeling to the narrator and he worked as hard as he could. Then Bartleby began to move into the office while continuing to work hard. The employer asked Bartleby nicely to leave the office after his work shift many times but Bartleby never ended up leaving; he had even found a key for the office and acted as if it was his home in a way. By the end of the story it took the law enforcement to remove Bartleby because a new employer had taken over the building and he still refused to leave. Bartleby had only wanted to do what he wanted to do and it did not matter who was asking him for help or a favor he would either not responded or say “I would prefer not to.” I don’t understand why anyone would want to stay in the office that they were working at, it almost made me wonder if Bartleby had done this with previous jobs.

In each story the men went about dealing with their experiences in a different way. With the narrator in “Look on the Bright Side” he tried to stay positive as much as he could, he was always looking on the bright side. He knew that he had to find a job, but also knew that there was not any work out there, but heavily relayed on the business agents who kept telling him that work was going to break anytime. He also had to deal with the fact that his landlord wanted to raise the rent of their home, but he could not afford it nor did he think that the house was even worth that rent. He decided to go on vacation with his family and get in a little bit of trouble for trying to smuggle some rum and narcotics. At the end of the story he ended up going to court and winning, but in the he still lost the house and had to move his family out. I think that he should have tried to find a job right away, but of course he did not know that the economy was going to turn for the worst.

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The narrator in “Bartleby, the Scrivener” seemed to be more of a push over when it came to dealing with is problem with his new employee Bartleby, who did not want to do everything that was required for the job and then ultimately would not leave the office even after being told that he was fired. The narrator was always coming up with excuses for why Bartleby would act the way he did and would sometimes feel sorry for him. But then there were other times such as when Bartleby would say “I would prefer not to” that the narrator would get fed up with him and want to fire him. The narrator struggled with this issue of what to do with Bartleby through the whole story. He had tried everything from at first giving him the benefit of the doubt, then to bribing him, asking him to leave, and finally he moved his entire office closer down town. It seemed that whatever his plan of action was, he just could not rid himself of Bartleby. In the end he finally came to realization that Bartleby had grown into his life, and now that he was in jail, because the new employers of the office building that the narrator had sold could not get rid of him, he was going to visit with him as much as possible and find out who this interesting character named Bartleby really was.

With both of these stories there was a different perspective of how to handle situations. In “Look at the Bright Side” the narrator really did try and look at the bright side of problem that he had ran into. As for “Bartleby, the Scrivener” the narrator pushed his issues off dealing with Bartleby and made excuses for him until he could no longer handle it. The narrator was pushovers by letting Bartleby get away with everything in the beginning. Even though the stories dealt with two different issues they were still similar. There was great detail about each person that the narrators came into contact with, from what they looked like to what their personality was like. Both of these stories were great life lessons and should be kept in the back of everyone’s mind when they run into these situations in life. One, you cannot always be a push over because you are going to lose in the end and two, you should always try and stay positive and focus on the real things in life such as family and friends, not just money.

Work Citied

Charters, Ann. Dagoberto Gilb. 8th. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. 451. Print.

Charters, Ann. Herman Melville. 8th. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin, 2011. 877. Print.

Gilb, Dagoberto. Look on the Bright Side. 452-460. Print.

Melville, Herman. Bartleby, the Scrivener. 878-904. Print.

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