Stories about unusual or even to a certain extent extraordinary people were always interesting for common readers and often provoked many discussions among literary critics. Among such stories the two may be singled out: “Bartleby, the Scrivener” by Herman Melville and “A&P” by John Updike. In fact both authors depicts the stories of people which are similar but on deeper reflection they are still different that underline the individuality of the writers and their particular messages they wanted to convey to readers. This is why it is quite interesting to explore the story of Bartleby and Sammy who rebels against the general line of behavior and existing stereotypes but the ways of their protests are different.
Similarities between the characters
Probably it would be logical to start with the analysis of the similarities between Bartleby and Sammy since, on reading their stories, the first impression is that the authors ideas concerning these characters and their role should be similar.
In general they are quite similar because they both behave unusually in relation to their employers, namely Bartleby refuses to fulfill what the lawyer asks him to do and what he actually has to do, while Sammy declares that he quits the job. But it is only the superficial similarity. What is more important is the reasons that made these people act in such a way.
Obviously they both cannot continue to work as others employees do. It means that they both attempt to change somehow their life and probably the attitude of other people to them, since Bartleby is characterized by his employer as the ‘strangest’ scrivener he ever saw.
Furthermore, both Bartleby and Sammy do the routine job though formally different but in actuality it is the job people pretending to higher social status refuse to do. In the same time the characters feel that they are deprived and probably they want to achieve better results in their life and career and such dissatisfaction to their professional success made them act against all traditional stereotypes.
Finally what makes them both so similar is their social role, the role of an insignificant employee who seems to resist to the existing system and try to remain independent individuals, with their dignity and self-esteem. In such a way authors probably want to underline the significance every person for the society that sounds a bit idealistically but fully corresponds to the principles of humanism.
Differences between the characters
Probably the intention of the authors to underline the importance of every individual was so great that they could not fail to make them different what actually make the characters individuals and strong personalities.
The differences between the characters as well as similarities may be traced on different levels, some of them are obvious while others are hidden. One of the most obvious differences between the characters is the fact that Bartleby is a mystery, neither his colleagues nor his employer cannot understand him and consider him a kind of insane, a strange person that violates all traditional principles of relations between employee and employer as well as his general attitude to his job is also quite unexplainable for surrounding people. At this respect his refusal from work is quite symbolic for he would prefers not to do what his chief asks him to do. In fact Bartleby do not directly refuses to work and formally the lawyer does not have any reasons to fire him. Bartleby, responding in such a way, probably implies that if the lawyer insists he might have done the work.
In contrast, Sammy is quite ‘open’ person that becomes obvious from the way he refuses to work and says that he quits. Comparing him to Bartleby, it becomes obvious that Sammy does not hint somehow that he does not like what he does or what Lengel, his uptight dreary manager, does. He is a man who probably get used to act and speak directly and according to his thoughts and beliefs.
Furthermore, it should be said that Sammy is rather pragmatic person for soon after he has said he quit he realizes what he has done and the consequences of his words he regrets about his decision. In the same time Bartleby seems to be much more altruistic, or even philosophic. He produces an impression of a person that does not care about his job and his future. The fact that he has lost the job in the Dead Letter office only enforces this impression because it is possible to presuppose that the job in the Dead Letter office, where he burned letters that have been sent to people who have died or vanished, influenced him significantly. Probably he has even changed his attitude to life. In such a context Bartleby seems to be a person, reflecting on such entire philosophical notions as life and death and not caring about his present life, while Sammy turns to be a person who, being moved some emotional state, takes a decision that may deteriorate his life and practically immediately he regrets about it.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that Herman Melville and John Updike depict characters which rebel against the stereotypes and scornful attitude to ‘insignificant’ people but if the protest of Sammy, being outrageous and bold at first glance, turns to be the protest of a person who actually cannot resist to the circumstances, life and society where he lives and he is a kind of person who rebels by chance than Bartleby is a person whose philosophy is to be different from the rest of society and remain individual independent from the circumstances or other people’s will. In fact they both move in the same direction but in different ways, i.e. they realize that something in their life or in themselves has to be changed but Sammy is unable to become free of prejudices or stereotypes he even cannot quit, even though he says about it, while Bartleby continues to work but he is indifferent what happens to him he rather tends to be what he is, in other words a reader deals with conformist contrasted to nonconformist.