Melanctha

“Melanctha Herbert had not made her life all simple like Rose Johnson. Melanctha had not found it easy with herself to make her wants and what she had, agree.
Melanctha Herbert was always losing what she had in wanting all the things she saw. Melanctha was always being left when she was not leaving others.” (Stein 93)

“Melanctha always made herself escape but often it was with an effort. She did not know what it was that she so badly wanted, but with all her courage Melanctha here was a coward, and so she could not learn to understand.” (Stein 99)

There is such an intense use of repetition to create the picture of the character – this repetition serves to create a feeling of a story & a world that entirely revolves around Melanctha. Other people’s actions (such as her father, and her friend’s) depend on who she is as a person. Rose is described through comparisons to Melanctha. This repetition makes the story feel as though it’s one that we ought to be familiar with. Linguistically we are because we just read those words, or that sentence structure multiple times, but that linguistic pattern serves to make the story feel familiar – feel as though it is a story that has happened before, that should not be unfamiliar to the reader. Melanctha’s story then becomes more poignant in that she is an individual in a mass of individual stories, all tragic and small and revolving around a single person.

Gertrude Stein, “Melanctha,” in Three Lives (New York: The Grafton Press, 1909)

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