Melville Stories

by: Herman Melville

Suggested Essay Topics

Bartleby makes a point of saying he would "prefer not to" do something, rather than saying he "will not" do something. The Lawyer points this out several times, and he even begins to use the word "prefer" in odd situations himself. What is the significance of the word "prefer"? Why do you think Bartleby uses it?

Discuss the contrast between the actual "Enchanted Islands"—the volcanic humps of ash-covered rock—and the way they are portrayed in the narrator's imagination. Why does he think the ugly islands (covered with snakes, lizards and spiders) are enchanted? Does the narrator tend to focus on the nicer islands in "The Encantadas"?

Discuss the role of the narrator in "The Encantadas." Why is he telling the reader about these islands? How much of the story is told from his own experience, and how much of it is second-hand information, or even legends?

Analyze the character of Captain Delano. Why does he fail to recognize all the clues that the slaves are in control of the San Dominick?

Is the revolt of the slaves justified? Why or why not? Who is the villain (or who are the villains) in "Benito Cereno"?