Melville's Message in Benito Cereno

In the story Bartleby and Benito Cereno that has authorship credited to Herman Melville, the narrator has some difference of opinion about Bartleby. From the start, of the story, he does not notice his life is unique and weird. The narrator thinks of Bartleby as a normal man with a slight difference in behavior from the other people he knows. However, there comes a time when the narrator notices that Bartleby is behaving in ways which are not the same as other people.

First the narrator notices that Bartleby usually did consume most of his time alone in solitude. Unlike other men, Bartleby never took beer, coffee or tea. His skin was pale; he never went out for a walk and never talks about himself. There is also no instance where Bartleby mentions his family. The narrator goes ahead to make the assumption that Bartleby is an introvert. However, the air of suspicion and curiosity about Bartleby leads the narrator to be full of fear rather than pity and compassion that he has for Bartleby.

The narrator states that Bartleby has made the office his home. He notices that the characteristics that Bartleby portrays are not those of an introvert person but rather a person who is disturbed. The feeling of melancholy towards Bartleby quickly fade. Bartleby’s imagination is taking over his life, and very soon he will lose control of his life. The narrator comes to a conclusion that Bartleby is suffering from an innate and incurable disorder. Although Bartleby is a slender man with no big body, he has no signs of physical weakness.

Short Story Summary

The narrator says Bartleby’s body does not pain him. This only shows that the problem Bartleby is experiencing is more serious than just physical. It is mental and emotional. The narrator wishes to help Bartleby, but his problem is within his soul. A soul he can neither touch nor reach. This leaves the narrator in a dilemma, as there is nothing he can do to help solve Bartleby’ introvert nature. Neither can he cure Bartleby’s soul.

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