Three Lives

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Stories by Gertrude Stein, published in 1909.

These unconventional character portraits, the author's first published fiction, exhibit her typical experimental attitude toward style and subject matter, and her attempt to reach an intuitive expression of consciousness and emotions. “The Good Anna” tells of Anna Federner, a sober, faithful housekeeper “of solid lower middle-class south german stock,” who comes to the American city of Bridgepoint, and works successively for Miss Mary Wadsmith, “a large, fair, helpless woman,” whose nephew and niece she helps to raise; Dr. Shonjen, a friendly physician; and Miss Mathilda, who goes to Europe and leaves Anna her house. She takes in boarders, but loses money by her simple generosity, and dies as a result of overwork. “The Gentle Lena” is concerned with a German girl who works as a maid in Bridgepoint, is married by her aunt to a stupid German tailor, apathetically endures her miserable life, and dies at the birth of her fourth child. The long story, “Melanctha,” tells of the “subtle, intelligent, attractive, half white girl” Melanctha Herbert, who grows up in a Southern town, unloved by her brutal black father and weak mulatto mother. She has an unhappy love affair with the mulatto Dr. Jeff Campbell, who never returns her passionate affection. After she breaks with Jeff, she is engaged to a black gambler, Jem Richards, but, after he deserts her, she contracts consumption and dies.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Gertrude Stein (1874—1946) American writer

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