“She would not say of any one in the world that they were this or were that. She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, looking on. She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, far out to the sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day. Not that she thought herself clever, or much out of the ordinary. How she had got through life on the few twigs of knowledge Fraulein Daniels gave them she could not think. She knew nothing; no language, no history; she scarcely read a book now, except memoirs in bed; and yet to her it was absolutely absorbing; all this; the cabs passing; and she would not say of Peter, she would not say of herself, I am this, I am that” (5).
Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York, NY: Harcourt, Inc., 1981. Web.
Notes: the idea of being both inside and outside at once; very aware and appreciative of life, yet introspective and internally isolated; struggling between her bustling surroundings and her quiet, overactive mind.
“Melanctha Herbert was always losing what she had in all the things she saw. Melanctha was always being left when she was not leaving others.
Melanctha Herbert always loved too hard and much too often. She was always full with mystery and subtle movements and denials and vague distrusts and complicated disillusions. Then Melanctha would be sudden and impulsive and unbounded in some faith, and then she would suffer and be strong in her repression.
Melanctha Herbert was always seeking rest and quiet and always she could only find new ways to be in trouble” (89).
“It was never Melanctha’s way, even in the midst of her worst trouble to complain to any one of what happened to her, but nevertheless somehow every one who knew Melanctha always knew how much she suffered. It was only while one really loved Melanctha that one understood how to forgive her, that she never once complained nor looked unhappy, and was always handsome and in spirits, and yet one always knew how much she suffered” (92).
The development of Melanctha is intricate and complex, as demonstrated through these two passages. She is not a character that can be explained in a few sentences, a stark contrast to her friend Rose Johnson, who the author describes in blunt statements. Melanctha is painted in layers, making her an enigma that the reader is encouraged to understand. She seems to possess an inescapable sadness, which she refers to as being “blue”, that impacts her much more deeply than what is initially seen. One can assume it is depression, but what makes this intriguing is how her suffering is masked by the persona she chooses to put on.
Gertrude Stein, “Melanctha,” in Three Lives (New York: The Grafton Press, 1909). Web.