Gertrude Stein, How Could You??

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.

Gertrude Stein, “Melanctha” in Three Lives, (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994), 47.

“No, what I don’t like, Miss Melanctha, is this what I see so much in the colored people, their always wanting new things just to get excited.”

Gertrude Stein, “Melanctha” in Three Lives, 68.

Analysis: There is a lot of judgment surrounding Bridgepoint’s black culture, all stemming from racist beliefs. The third-person narrator makes a large claim about the “negro world in Bridgepoint” as though the belief that all black people neglected their children were true. The narrator also continues to insinuate that black people are unfeeling when it comes to the deaths of their children and that they do not “[think] about it very long.” This makes the blacks in Bridgepoint, and the entire world, seem uncaring, lazy, and selfish. Not only does the narrator say racist things, but Gertrude Stein uses Dr. Campbell, a black character, to judge black culture in Bridgepoint as well. This tactic is used to make it seem as though even some black people look down upon the black culture in Bridgepoint, which may legitimize, to some readers, the racist beliefs that black people are lazy and selfish.

Leave a Reply