View Full Version : Bartleby Question-help!

01-19-2008, 02:32 PM
Maybe this is a stupid question, but what exactly is the Dead Letter Office??

01-19-2008, 09:33 PM
This is what one might call serendipity, or at least a happy coincidence in that I just happened have finished reading (re-reading) it the other night.

Of course, these days with our faxes, copy machines, and other reproductive equipment (that phrase is not as sexy as it sounds!), there is no longer any occupation such as a scrivener.

The Dead Letter Office may still exist at the U.S. P. S., I don't know, but it was a branch of the mail service in which undeliverable mail was dispatched --
undecipherable addresses, incomplete addresses, unknown
recipients, especially pieces of mail that had no return address.

So unlike the Elvis song "Return to Send-ah!" these letters and parcels had literally nowhere to go. They were for all intents and purposes "dead."


Don't rely on my faulty memory, though. Try doing an Internet search of the term.

01-20-2008, 11:57 PM

01-21-2008, 11:57 PM
It's also, we should observe, an office that was supposed to be safe from Washington party politics. The fact that he was dismissed from such a safe position due to "a change in the administration" serves to position him closely alongside the narrator, who was dismissed from his sinecure in a similar fashion, as he mentions near the beginning of the story.
Hope that helps as well.