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Bartleby

There are a few clues in “S” that lead us to Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener

  1. On p20, after Sola asks S to remove his overcoat, he says I would prefer not to. This is the line used most often in Bartleby, by Bartleby.
  2. On p24 in the margins, after Jen asks Eric to explain something, he writes I would prefer not to. Jen writes back Quoting Melville doesn’t make the evasion any less irritating.
  3. On p24 in the margins, Eric writes But its gingerbread, not cake. One of the characters in Bartleby the Scrivener is Ginger Nut, who is named after the gingerbread cookies he fetches for the scriveners.

Then there is the possible clue that leads us to the Russian version of Bartleby the Scrivener called The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol.

Fn2 p42 says…

Several commentators of limited acumen have pointed out that overcoats figure prominently in many of Straka’s books and have argued in favor of one grand metaphorical interpretation or another. (I humbly observe that an overcoat, most often, is simply an overcoat. Its function is to keep its wearer warm.)

The footnote does highlight that the overcoat is a focal point. It is mentioned 23 times specifically before FXC’s comment here.

This unusual focus on the word overcoat seems to point to Nikolai Gogol’s 1842 novel The Overcoat. It is also about a scrivener and his struggle to find meaning. Both stories, published 11 years apart, are similar in that the main character is a scrivener and struggling to find meaning and purpose in life and work, and yet the stories are very different in their approach.

The reasons for the emphasis on these two works is not yet clear. Perhaps you have some ideas?

 

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