Wisdom in Melanctha

Dr. Campbell said he wanted to work so that he could understand what troubled people, and not to just have excitements, and he believed you ought to love your father and your mother and to be regular in all your life, and not to be always wanting new things and excitements, and to always know where you were and what you wanted, and to always tell everything just as you meant it. that’s the only kind of life he knew or believed in,  Jeff Campbell repeated. ‘No I ain’t got any use for all the time being in excitements and wanting to have all kinds of experience all the time. I got plenty of experience just living regular  and quiet and with my family, and doing my work, and taking care of people, and trying to understand it. I don’t believe much in this running around business and I don’t want to see colored people do it. I am a colored man and I ain’t sorry, and I want to see the colored people like what is good and what I want them to have, and that’s to live regular and work hard and understand things, and that’s enough to keep any decent man excited.’

But Melanctha Herbert had listened to him say all this. She knew he meant it, but it did not mean much to her, and she was sure some day he would find out, that it was not all, real wisdom (Stein 116-17).

Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” In Three Lives. New York: Grafton, 1909. Internet Archive. http : / / archive .org /details / threelivesstorieoosteirich

I found it disheartening yet interesting to see such different viewpoints on race between two people of the same race. Melanctha offers a much more freeing and mature viewpoint than Dr. Campbell who insists on their race remaining meager and live without full understanding.


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