Melanctha Essay

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Le Blanc is an editor and writer who has taught at the University of Michigan. In the following essay, she focuses on Stein's innovative style and subject matter in the story, and upon Stein's treatment of emotion and time.

At least since Carl Van Vechten's preface to the 1933 edition of Three Lives, critics have claimed "Melanctha" as a trailblazing text in its use of African-American characters. Gertrude Stein was undeniably unorthodox, among white writers, in her decision to set "Melanctha" in a black community, using only black characters. Previous to this, non-white characters usually appeared in fiction as marginal actors, such as servants. As progressive as Stein's selection of an African-American setting was in the early twentieth century, her language still carries obvious and marked racism. Her descriptions of the characters, in particular, betray her prejudices: Rose Johnson has "the simple, promiscuous unmorality of the black people"; several...

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This section contains 1,433 words
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