In "Bartleby, the Scrivener" by Herman Melville was a most interesting story. The characters were very interesting to the reader. The narrator is an interesting man who is difficult to completely understand and his thoughts seem unclear even to himself. He is also a very innocent and an unreliable narrator. Innocent in this case means that the narrator puts up with a lot of the employees' antics, avoids conflicts and at the fact the narrator doesn't know that Bartleby is blind.
Any other boss would have fired these employees and would try to resolve conflicts that were going on in the office. The unreliable narrator also goes to a lot of trouble in trying to help Bartleby but only helps because it gratifies himself. The narrator manipulates the audience by showing sincerity for Bartley and then comes around by treating him differently. There is no doubt that the narrator puts up with the behavior of his employees.
One of his employees is an old man named Turkey, who is sober in the morning, but in the afternoon becomes insolent. Any other person would have fired Turkey, when he becomes insolent towards his fellow workers and clients, but the narrator generally leaves him alone. One can conclude he is being a "safe" man, he decides to let things be the same in order to prevent a conflict. The narrator could have fired Turkey, which would have prevented a conflict as well as resolving the issue regarding Turkey's attitude, but the narrator chooses to keep Turkey.
Although one can say that the narrator must also take into account the extent of his compassion. In the scene where Bartleby refuses to help examine the paper, the narrator backs away from a confrontation. He says, "I looked at him steadfastly. His face was leanly composed; his gray eye dimly calm. Not a wrinkle of agitation rippled in him" (121). The narrator does not know how to handle the situation because he could not find any human qualities within Bartleby.
Therefore, he plays it safe and avoids the confrontation by proceeding to other matters. This scene helps show the narrator's limits because by playing it safe, he is not helping Bartleby, but instead delays the inevitable confrontation. The narrator's compassion towards Bartleby has extended further, when he offers to give Bartleby a new job. He says, "Would you like to travel through the country collecting bills for the merchants? That would improve your health" (137). Bartleby refuses to accept any of the jobs that the narrator offers him, which in turn angers the narrator.
The narrator is at his wit's end because he is trying to help Bartleby, but his help is always rejected. The innocent narrator still does not know that Bartleby is blind. When Bartleby first starts work, the narrator places him behind a screen so that he, "Might entirely isolate Bartleby from my sight, though not to remove him from my voice" (121). This wall served no real purpose other than to set Bartleby apart from the scriveners, that is, to make him self feel more important.
The narrator seems to have a sincere wish to help Bartleby in whatever way he can. His sincerity, though, is questionable. Every time the narrator tries to assist Bartleby, he seems to do it only to gratify himself. After the narrator informs Bartleby that the office must be vacated, he says to himself, "As I walked home in a pensive mood, my vanity got the better of my pity" (131).
The narrator is glad to have gotten rid of Bartleby, but only it seems, because he gave Bartleby money. This sincerity does seem to take a turn, however, towards the end of the story. After all the trivial attempts to help Bartleby, the narrator seems to have an instant of true feeling for Bartleby. After moving, and being rid of Bartleby, someone comes to him on Bartleby's behalf.
The narrator goes to the prison to check on Bartleby only because he cares and knows that nobody else does. He knows that if he does not check on Bartleby's well- being, no one will. This shows that he is truly beginning to care. In conclusion the innocent narrator did not care to much in what his employees did and their work ethic. To avoid any confrontation the narrator did nothing.
He let the employees' do as they please. He tried helping and trying to understand Bartleby but the one thing that the narrator didn't figure out was that he was blind. The help the narrator was trying to provide was not needed by Bartleby for instance the new job where he would get to travel. The unreliable narrator tries through out the story tries to help Bartleby and ends up being frustrated because he does not know how. Also as the unreliable narrator he treats Bartleby different from the others in the beginning then towards the end tries to get rid of Bartleby. In the beginning he isolates him from the other scriveners.
Towards the end he is kind enough to visit him in jail even though he sent Bartleby there in the first place.