“I would prefer not to.”

The setup (i.e. the summary of the summary of Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener (by way of Sparks Notes ) The Lawyer, the narrator of the story, has already been surprised once before by Bartleby’s refusal to examine a document, as all scriveners (law-copyists) are required to do. Bartleby said he would “prefer not to,” and the Lawyer was so surprised that he hadn’t argued with him. A few days after this incident, there is a large document to be examined. The Lawyer calls in all his employees to work on the examination. But when he calls Bartleby to assist as well, the scrivener…

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