Tag Archives: knowledge

An Education

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.

Gertrude Stein, “Melanctha,” in Three Lives (New York: The Grafton Press, 1994), 54

Jane had many ways in which to do this teaching. She told Melanctha many things. She loved Melanctha hard and made Melanctha feel it very deeply. She would be with other people and with men and with Melanctha, and she would make Melanctha understand what everybody wanted, and what one did with power when one had it.

Gertrude Stein, “Melanctha,” in Three Lives (New York: The Grafton Press, 1994), 60

Throughout Stein’s novella Melanctha is alluded to having a thirst for knowledge, and yet she is constantly misunderstood for her pursuit by her friends and family. There are multiple references to the wisdom she gains from talking with men, but as to the nature of the knowledge, that is kept misleading. Her closest friend in her youth is Jane Harden, who also passes knowledge to Melanctha. Jane wants Melanctha to know how to please people, but Melanctha seems to constantly anger the people she comes into contact with.

The Beast in the Jungle

He had justified his fear and achieved his fate ; he had failed, with the last exactitude, of all he was to fail of, and a moan now rose to his lips as he remembered she had prayed he mightn’t know. This horror of waking – this was knowledge, knowledge under the breath of which the very tears in his eyes seemed to freeze. Through them, none the less, he tried to fix it and hold it ; he kept it there before him so that he might feel the pain. That at least, belated and bitter, had something of the taste of life. But the bitterness suddenly sickened him, and it was as if, horribly, he saw in the truth, in the cruelty of his image, what had been appointed and done. He saw the Jungle of his life and saw the lurking Beast ; then, while he looked, perceived it, as by a stir of the air, rise, huge and hideous, for the leap that was to settle him. His eyes darkened – it was close ; and, instinctively turning, in his hallucination, to avoid it, he flung himself, on his face, on the tomb.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle”, in Major Stories & Essays (New York: Library of America, 1999), p489-490