Tag Archives: harsh

“Careless AND Lazy,” yet Needs “Decent Comfort”

“The child, though it was healthy after it was born, did not live long. Rose Johnson was careless and negligent and selfish, and when Melanctha had to leave for a few days, the baby died.  Rose Johnson had liked the baby well enough and perhaps she just forgot it for awhile, anyway the child was dead and Rose and Sam her husband were very sorry but then these things came so often in the negro world in Bridgepoint, that they neither of them thought about it very long” (47).

“Rose Johnson was careless and was lazy, but she had been brought up by white folks and she needed decent comfort. Her white training had only made for habits, not for nature. Rose had the simple, promiscuous unmorality of the black people” (47-48).

Stein, G. (2011). Melanctha. (2 ed., pp. 47-48). Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, INC.

Notes: From early on in the novel, the reader can see that Rose is the epitome of an abhorrent mother.  The narrator describes her as “careless and negligent and selfish,” which gives the reader a negative view of her character, yet still mentions how, “perhaps she just forgot about it for awhile,” (47).  The former description is much more harsh than the latter, which seems as if the narrator is perhaps defending Rose: using the word “perhaps” almost softens the fact that she was cruel enough to let her own infant die, and the fact that she and her husband  did not “[think] about…[[the baby’s death] very long” shows that they have absolutely no remorse for this tragedy.  This shows Rose’s character very early on in the novella: again the narrator mentions she is “careless and…lazy,” but again defends that she still “need[s] decent comfort.”  It will be interesting to discover why the narrator feels the need to insult this woman and very quickly soften the blow. Additionally, Stein seems to use a similar pattern when describing Rose by repeatedly using the word “and” in numerous sentences. Rose is “careless and negligent;” she is “careless and lazy.”  The author writes in this manner, which seems simple and repetitive.  Perhaps it is because this is the way Rose speaks, so there is continuity throughout the story.  In any case, these two passages prove that there is a constant flow throughout the story with similar sentence structures.