“bartleby The Scrivener” And “young Goodman Brown”

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“Bartleby the Scrivener” and “Young Goodman Brown”

Part I

“Bartleby the Scrivener” is narrated by a prosperous Wall Street lawyer who, in “the cool tranquillity of a snug retreat,” does “a snug business among rich men's bonds, and mortgages, and title-deeds.” Among his clients, the nameless narrator is proud to report, was John Jacob Astor, the richest man in the United States at the time of his death. (Bloom 74-85)

The narrator's employees, as the story begins, are Turkey and Nippers, who are scriveners, or copyists, and Ginger Nut, a young office boy. The Dickensian copyists present problems for their employer, for each displays a different personality during each half of the working day. Turkey, who is short and fat, works quickly and steadily before noon but becomes clumsy and ill-tempered after his midday meal. At the opposite extreme is the dyspeptic Nippers, nervous and irritable in the mornings but mild and productive in the afternoons. Because they are regular in their inconsistent behaviour, the narrator reports that he “never had to do with their eccentricities at one time,” and the work of the office proceeds, with Ginger Nut keeping the scriveners under some control by supplying them with cakes and apples.

On the other hand, Young Goodman Brown is bidding his wife, Faith, farewell at their front door. It is evening in the village, and he is going on a guilty errand, a fact that he clearly recognizes and deplores but an errand he has chosen to undertake nevertheless. Taking a route into the forest, he meets, as by appointment, an older man who bears a fatherly resemblance to both Brown and the Devil.

Brown initially considers his decision to go on his unholy errand an exceptional one, but he soon discovers that other presumably exemplary villagers are on the same path, including, to his amazement, Goody Cloyse, a pious old woman who once taught him his catechism but who readily confesses to the practice of witchcraft. With Brown still confident that he can turn back, his older companion departs, leaving behind his curiously snakelike staff and fully expecting that Brown will soon follow. (Bell 15-20)

Brown hides from another group of approaching figures, which includes the minister and deacon of his church and even—to his horror—his wife, Faith. At this point, he yields to despair and sets forth to join in what is obviously a witches' Sabbath or Black Mass. Laughing and ...
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