Melanctha Herbert always loved too hard and much too often. She was always full with mystery and subtle movements and denials and vauge distrusts and complicated disillusions. Then Melanchtha would be sudden and impulsive and unbounded in some faith, and then she would suffer and be strong in her repression.
–Gertrude Stein, Three Lives
There are many thoughts on “Melanctha”… many of which would note Stein’s reliance of early twentieth century racial stereotypes to characterize Malanchtha, which the editors of the Bedford Cultural Edition find so egregious that that they note them in footnotes to the text, calling them embarrasssing to the modern reader and regretful. However, there is still something to be gleaned from the text as a cultural object; particularly, as I look toward my MA exams on the avant-garde. More than that, however, while I find Stein’s writing difficult to penetrate at times, as it lacks a sort of lyricism that lends other writers’ works logic (such as Woolf, Faulkner, etc.), there are certain phrases, lines, paragraphs that stand out. This, to me, is one of them. Described in this way, who among us does not know a Melanctha?