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bartelby

To eat or not to eat is the dilemma which is reiterated throughout "Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street". This same dilemma presents itself within the minds of the storys characters as well. Settings and characters reinforce the theme of food and feasting. Characters nicknames such as Turkey, Nippers, Mr. Cutlets, and Ginger-nut introduce this theme of food and nurishment. "Smell[ing] of eating-houses"(p.1112) and having "gentleness [from the] effects of beer"(p.1118), Turkey is descibed with metaphors of food. Food greatly affects the work habits of Turkey. In the morning, Turkey copies efficiently. However, after his habitual dinner drink and meal, he becomes drunk and "blazed like a grate full of Christmas coals"(p.1110); reinforcing Melvilles notion that food impacts his life and ability to work. Food to shows the close juxtaposition between food or eating habits and work. For instance, the narrator states, "Of all the fiery afternoon blunders and flurried rashnesses of Turkey, was his once moistening a ginger-cake between his lips, and clapping it to a mortgage for a seal"(p.1113). Here, Melville is playing on the resemblance between these thin cookies and wax wafers used for sealing mortgages. Nippers is a character who is also described in part in terms of food. The narrator "deemed him the victim of two evil powers - ambition and indigestion...The indigestion seemed betokened in an occasional nervous testiness and grinning irritability, causing the teeth to audibly grind together over mistakes commited in copying"(p.1111). Nippers work is affected by his eating habits. In fact, the schedule of the law office is organized around the workers eating habits. While Turkey works diligently in the morning, Nippers suffers from indigestion and is unable to perform in the morning; however, after lunch he recovers and completes his duties. Food and digestion are also important to the narrat...

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