Melanctha’s power

“James Herbert did not fight things out any more with his daughter. He feared her tongue, and her school learning, and the way she had of saying things that were very nasty to a brutal black man who knew nothing. And Melanctha just then hated him very badly in her suffering” (Stein 103).

“And so Melanctha wondered on the edge of wisdom. ‘Say, Sis, why don’t you when you come here stay a little longer?’ they would all ask her, and they would hold her for an answer, and she would laugh, and sometimes she did stay longer, but always just in time she made herself escape” (101).

In both passages, Melanctha’s power over the men in her life is illustrated.  There is a discernible parallel between her father and the men who sexually pursue her. The men in her life seem to be the playthings in which she controls with her knowledge and promiscuity . The relationship she maintains with “knowledge” and her constant pursuit of it is what intrigues men and draws them to an unidentifiable difference in her. Her knowledge also forces her father to succumb to his sense of authority because he is afraid of what his daughter is capable of knowing. These passages illustrate the complex air that is beginning to form around Melanctha’s character and gives insight into how the men in the story function.

Gertrude Stein, “Melanctha,” in Three Lives (New York: The Grafton Press, 1909). Web.

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