Bartleby, the Scrivener Allusion Activity

  • 8 pages
  • Subject: Allusion, Literary Devices, Lesson Plans and Educational Resources
  • Common Core Standards: RL.11-12.4, RL.9-10.1, RL.9-10.4, RL.9-10.9

Additional Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street Resources

Product Description

Herman Melville’s 1853 short story “Bartleby, the Scrivener” tells the story of a Wall Street lawyer who hires a clerk named Bartleby. At first, the lawyer puts up with Bartleby’s bizarre habits—working in silence, eating only ginger nuts, sleeping under his desk—but he grows irate and helpless as Bartleby increasingly replies to his requests with, “I would prefer not to.” Expansive in its breadth of allusions to Western culture, Melville’s mysterious story touches on mental illness, class conflict, and American society.

Skills: analysis, close reading, drawing inferences from a text, interpreting implications of allusions

About This Document

The Owl Eyes Allusions activity gives students an opportunity to practice identifying and analyzing allusions. Allusions broaden the scope of a text and imbue passages of the text with deeper meaning by subtly drawing on literature, history, science, geography, philosophy, mythology, or other cultural sources. The main components of this activity include the following:

  • A contextualized paragraph of the text
  • A handout defining “allusion” with examples from classic works
  • A list of tips for spotting allusions
  • A step-by-step guide to activity procedure
  • An example answer

In completing this activity, students will be able to identify, analyze, and interpret allusions, thereby accessing deeper meanings within the text.