Melanctha

“Why did the subtle, intelligent, attractive, half white girl Melanctha Herbert love and do for and demean herself in service to this coarse, decent, sullen, ordinary, black childish Rose, and why was this unmoral, promiscuous,
shiftless Rose married, and that’s not so common either, to a good man of the negroes, while Melanctha with her white blood and attraction and her desire for a right position had not yet been really married” (Stein 86).

“Girls who are brought up with care and watching can always find moments to escape into the world, where they may learn
the ways that lead to wisdom. For a girl raised like Melanctha Herbert, such escape was always very simple. Often she was alone, sometimes she was with a fellow seeker, and she strayed and stood, sometimes by railroad yards, sometimes on the docks or around new buildings where many men were working. Then when the darkness covered everything all over, she would begin to learn to know this man or that. She would advance, they would respond, and then she would withdraw a
little, dimly, and always she did not know what it was that really held her. Sometimes she would almost go
over, and then the strength in her of not really knowing, would stop the average man in his endeavor. It was a
strange experience of ignorance and power and desire. Melanctha did not know what it was that she so badly wanted. She was afraid, and yet she did not understand that here she really was a coward” (Stein 96).

Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” In Three Lives. New York: Grafton, 1909. Internet Archive. http://archive.org/details/threelivesstorie00steirich.

These passages both highlight Stein’s style of over-emphasizing a character’s traits. She uses many adjectives to describe Melanctha and uses run-on sentences that get extremely confusing as to who Stein is even referring to by the end. Also, her style of writing often repeats the same ideas, for instance writing that Melanctha wishes to kill herself when she is feeling blue. These passages have a connection, I believe, because first we learn that Melanctha is intelligent and beautiful, but also has no idea what she really wants so she gets herself into a lot of trouble. This correlates with the second passage I chose which asserts that Melanctha is actually not going anywhere to make herself happier because she has great fear. She seems bold enough to go out on her own into the world but the one thing stopping her is herself.

Leave a Reply