Sketch the character of Turkey


How has the author characterized Turkey?


What impressions do you have about Turkey?


What ideas about Turkey, the author’s copyist, do you gather from your study of the story Bartleby the Scrivener?

bartleby (2)Answer: Turkey is the senior most copyist of the author in the story Bartleby the Scrivener. He is a short pursy Englishman of about sixty years. He is a man of contradictions. He exists as half-man in an utterly unnatural state. He and Nippers are viewed as a single person. His activities show regular fits of imbalance and nervous paroxysms. He and Nippers look like guards of each other.

Turkey is used to have two sharply different temperaments during the twelve hours of a day. In the morning his face is a fine, florid hue, but after 12 o’clock it blazes like a grate full of Christmas coals, and continued blazing with a gradual wane till six o’clock p.m. after which no more of “proprietor of the face” to be seen. This happens regularly every day. Strangely, when Turkey displays his fullest beams from his red and radiant countenance, his business capacities begin to be seriously disturbed, for the remainder of the twenty-four hours. Not that he is absolutely idle, or averse to business then, but he is apt to be altogether energetic. There is a strange, inflamed, flurried, flighty recklessness of activity about him. He would be incautious in dipping his pen into his inkstand. All his blots upon the document of the author drop there after 12 o’clock. Sometimes, he is noisy at that time. At such times his face flames with augmented blazorry, as if cannel coal was heaped on anthracite. He makes an unpleasant racket with his chair, spills his sandbox, in mending his pens, impatiently splits them all to pieces, and throws on the floor in a sudden passion, stands up and leans over his table, boxing his papers about in a most indecorous manner. These are very sad to behold in an elderly person like him. Nevertheless, he is in many ways a most valuable person to the author, and all the time before 12 o’clock, he is the quickest, steadiest creature accomplishing a great deal of work in a style not easily to be matched. He often insists on the fact that if his services in the morning were useful, then in the afternoon they should be indispensable. The author takes care to give him less important papers in the afternoon. The character of Turkey stands out by its own strange traits. It is very strange that his nature changes completely after 12 o’clock in the noon, and paradoxically enough, when he displays his fullest beams from his red and radiant countenance, his business capacities begins to be seriously disturbed for the remainder of the twenty four hours.


Turkey’s nickname does not appear to fit his character. Turkey does not seem to really resemble a Turkey in any way, unless his wrinkled skin, perhaps turned red when he has one of his characteristic fits, makes him look like he has a Turkey’s neck. He is also reminiscent of nursery rhyme or fairy tale characters due to his strange name.

Turkey’s and Nippers’ behavior complement each other. Turkey is a good worker in the morning, while Nippers grumbles over a sour stomach and plays with his desk. In the afternoon, Turkey is red-faced and angry, making blots on his copies, while Nippers works quietly and diligently. They relieve each other like guards. They are the Tweedledee and Tweedledum of the Wall Street world. They are doubles of each other. Nippers ambition mirrors Turkey’s resignation to his place and the sad uneventfulness of his career, the difference coming about because of their respective ages. Nippers cherishes ambition of being more than a mere scrivener, while Turkey must plead with the narrator to consider his age when evaluating his productivity. It is observable that the nervous paroxysms of Turkey and Nippers appear—Turkey’s appear alternately in the afternoon and Nippers’ in the morning. Turkey in the morning is quiet, calm and sedate, but he has a completely different nature after 12 o’clock p.m. Nippers, due to his indigestion, has irritability and consequent nervousness mainly in the morning, but he is comparatively mild in the afternoon. The author feels that it was a good natural arrangement under the particular circumstances prevailing that time,

“Their fits relieved each other like guards. When Nippers’ was on, Turkey’s was off; and vice versa. This was a good natural arrangement.”

But alone, he exists as a ‘half-man’ in an utterly unnatural state. He spends half of his day, so half of his life, drunk and crazy.

By pointing to the contradictions in the aspect of Turkey’s character, the author wants perhaps to indicate that life is not something to be flourished by the corresponding energy employed in one’s activities, but it seems to be the quite opposite. When you are more energetic you are likely to commit more blunders and bring down more havoc on your life. The writer relates this strange aspect of Turkey’s character with the theme of life’s meaninglessness that Bartleby embodies. The relationship between Turkey and Nippers, brings out an underlying theme. The authoritarian and mechanized world in which these characters live demands that individuals be useful to it. Although they represent an efficient duo, each taking over when the other one goes mad, they are useful to society only because they have been reduced to miserable drones that hardly represent the full range of humanity.

Turkey, as a copyist, could not make the author satisfied fully by his works due to his eccentricities. That is why, the author wanted to place Bartleby as a model in front of him and Nippers. The author was glad to engage a sober man like Bartleby as one of the copyists, because he thought that he would have a good, sobering influence on Turkey and Nippers. Turkey needed such influence as he had some eccentricities in his habit and nature. Bartleby’s influence might operate beneficially upon the flighty temper of Turkey. But ultimately, Bartleby was dismissed by the author, and Turkey remained in his position, unaffected.