Election Day is November 3rd! Make sure your voice is heard

Melville Stories

Herman Melville
Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  "Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street"

author  Herman Melville

type of work  Short story

genre  Critique of mid-nineteenth century America

language  English (American)

time and place written  Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 1855

date of first publication  1853

publisher Putnam's Magazine

narrator  The Lawyer (1st person narration)

climax  The Lawyer offers to take Bartleby into his home, but Bartleby refuses; the Lawyer leaves him to be arrested as a vagrant and imprisoned.

protagonist(s)  The Lawyer

antagonist  Bartleby

setting (time)  1850s

setting (place)  New York

point of view  1st person narration

falling action  Bartleby goes to prison and dies; the Lawyer hears a rumor that he worked in the dead-letter office.

tense  Immediate past (primarily retrospective, i.e. flashback)

foreshadowing  None

tone  The story is written by the Lawyer, who is reflecting on his experiences with Bartleby. The tone is one of interest, frustration, and regret.

themes  Charity; work ethics; middle-class boredom

motifs  Food (Turkey, Ginger Nut, Bartleby's refusal to eat, etc.)

symbols  None

full title  "The Encantadas or Enchanted Isles"

author  Herman Melville

type of work  Fictionalized impressions of the Galapagos Islands, told in ten "sketches"

genre  Travel literature

language  English (American)

time and place written  Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 1855

date of first publication  1855

publisher Putnam's Magazine

narrator  Unnamed 1st person narrator

climax  If "The Encantadas" can be said to have a climax, it is probably the story of Oberlus the hermit, which is the longest and most involved of the ten "sketches."

protagonist(s)  The narrator

antagonist  None

setting (time)  1840s

setting (place)  The Galapagos Islands, near Peru

point of view  1st person narration

falling action  The tenth sketch

tense  Past (narrator's reflections)

foreshadowing  None

tone  "The Encantadas" has a romantic, reflective tone.

themes  Ruling over others; hermitic lifestyles; the dangers of the sea

motifs  None

symbols  Tortoises

full title  "Benito Cereno"

author  Herman Melville

type of work  Short story

genre  Mystery; adventure

language  English (American)

time and place written  Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 1855

date of first publication  1855

publisher Putnam's Magazine

narrator  3rd person narration

climax  When Benito Cereno leaps into Captain Delano's boat, and Delano realizes that the slaves are actually in control of the San Dominick.

protagonist(s)  Amasa Delano

antagonist  Babo

setting (time)  1799

setting (place)  Off the island of Santa Maria, Peru

point of view  3rd person narration

falling action  Benito Cereno gives his deposition, which reveals the truth of what happened on the San Dominick; Cereno dies.

tense  Immediate past; that is, real-time narration

foreshadowing  There are many clues throughout the story that hint at the slaves' control of the ship; for instance, Captain Delano twice sees slaves manhandle the white sailors without reprisal from either the sailors or Cereno.

tone  The tone of "Benito Cereno" is mysterious and anxious, as Delano tries to figure out what's going on around him.

themes  Race; slavery

motifs  Grayness

symbols  Alexandro Aranda's skeleton