Refusal in “Bartleby, the Scrivener”: Narrative ethics and conscientious objection

Alvan A. Ikoku

Virtual Mentor. March 2013, Volume 15, Number 3: 249-256


In 1853 Herman Melville published “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” his now most well-known piece of short fiction, which over a century and a half later we can certainly read as an illuminating dramatization of conscientious objection [1]. There are, of course, important differences between Melville’s approach to refusal and how we have come to discuss it in medical ethics. The story’s setting, for instance, is not clinical; the central exchanges are between the head of a law office and an employee who politely but insistently refuses to carry out his understood duties. [Full Text]

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