As I’ve learned particularly in another English class I’m taking, introductions to books, no matter how seemingly mundane they are, serve as a treasure chest of meaning. In straightforward introductions, there is still meaning: why is this introduction so spelled-out? how does this initial tone change or effect notions of characters? Basically, introductions matter. Reading “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” I cannot help but get stuck on the first line: “I am a rather elderly man.” Compared to the ambiguous, flat narrators of Austen and Dickens, especially, this line stood and immediately evoked a pronounced sense of fiction. To me, this introduction seems to use the most modern conventions: setting up a first-person narrator, and then telling the story. Indeed, in the paragraphs that follow, the narrator acknowledges how important it is to get to know him before the reader meets Bartleby. I am also writing this post purposefully after only reading the introduction. I think it’s important to capture these sentiments now in order to see how the novel develops, and also to have a firm understanding of the narrator’s character. In Hard Times, Dickens’s central characters are totally flat. However, Melville describes the narrator, not even the namesake of the short story, emphatically. Indeed, he writes more about the aesthetic of his narrator’s windows, it seems, than Dickens writes about Gradgrind. Obviously I’m being hyperbolic, but I just wanted to emphasize the staunch discrepancy I see between this work and others of the semester — even only a few paragraphs in.