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“made the way you is”

Notes on Gertrude Stein, Three Lives

Stein was first introduced to Otto Weininger’s book during the Winter of 1907-8 by her brother, Leo. (See Katz’s article and Stein’s recently discovered article on the degeneration of American women.) Weininger is perceptible here but as much as intellectual peer as inspiration, something to be kept in mind while reading Three Lives. She set herself a high standard in Flaubert’s Three Tales. She, in a sense, “translated” Flaubert.

 

“The Good Anna”

25
“—she naturally preferred the boy, for boys, love always better to be done for and made comfortable and full of eating, while in the little girl she had to meet the feminine, the subtle opposition, showing so early in a young girl’s nature.”

37
Anna “…loved to work for men…”

44
Of Mrs. Lehtmann, “She was too well diffused to catch the feel of any sharp firm edge.” On her reception of harsh ideas.

46
“…a german woman’s feeling for the masterhood of men…”

55
“Romance is the ideal in one’s life and it is a very lonely living with it lost.”

58
“Most women were interfering in their ways.”

65
Ingratitude in the poor.

70
“…wonderful how poor people love to take advice…”

74
“There is nothing more dreary than old age in animals.”

 

“Melanctha”

87
“I’d maybe kill somebody else Melanctha ’cause I was blue, but I’d never kill myself.” says Rose.

90
“The things she had in her of her mother never made her feel respect.”

93
Melanctha: “…always pleasant, sweet-appearing, mysterious and uncertain, and a little wandering in her ways.”

95
“…with all her inborn intense wisdom was really very ignorant of evil.”

95-7
“learning” about men and power

101
“wandered on the edge of wisdom”

103
Broken arm without squealing.

105
Menlanctha’s and Jane Harden’s intimate phase.

116
Melanctha and Jeff Campbell clash in philosophies.

118
Melanctha accuses Jeff of self-ignorance. [Jeff is Stein. May Bookstaver, Melanctha.]

121
Jeff: folks just want to have too much fun.

122
“Strong, hot love… that makes you do anything for somebody that loves you.”

123
Jeff’s fear of feeling things deep down.

124
Jeff’s two kinds of loving: (1) quiet and (2) hot. Melanctha’s doubts about the former. See also p. 132.

128
Male skepticism of feeling; female offense at that skepticism.

129
Jeff’s slowmindedness. [Cf. Stein’s remark about herself on p. 225 of ABT. She speaks of this as anything but an unambiguous fault.]

140
Melanctha: “When you want to be seeing how the way a woman is really made of, Jeff, you shouldn’t never be so cruel, never to be thinking how much she can stand, the strong way you always do it, Jeff.”

141
“like a red Indian”

153
“It was a struggle, that was as sure always to be going on between them, as their minds and hearts always were to have different ways of working.”

155-6
Male disgust with not knowing exactly what the right way of doing was—fear of moral vagary.

156
Ambivalence toward woman.

158
Jeff’s new feeling: “like a new religion” [This is what it must be like for a man to be swallowed whole by the feminine. It is a Kierkegaardian leap of faith, an abandoning of all hope of exhaustive explanation or rational foundation. Cf. what Lawrence says in his Study of Thomas Hardy.]

159
But Jeff still wants “to know always, the way [he] should be acting.”

160
Faith in this leap is easier for her than for him.

161
The condemnation of woman to always be forgiving man. [Transgressive in nature, he must trail forgiveness.]

162
Melanctha is “hurt in her head” by listening to his trouble.

162-4
The loss of his capacity to be honest with her. The crippling aspect of the condition.

171
Using her pain “like a weapon.”

173-4
Jeff’s self-questioning [Stein’s].

175
“Melanctha was too many for him.”

179-80
Being game and never hollering.

Ordinary hollering and suffering openly. What’s the difference? Melanctha responds, but you can’t see “made the way you is”.

181
Melanctha’s deep feeling in the moment: it has little memory. She asserts that hers is “the right kind of feeling” and is liable to being trammeled by Jeff’s “fits of remembering,” she explains, “No, Jeff Campbell, it’s real feeling every moment when its needed, that certainly does seem to me like real remembering.” [The primacy of henids, defended.] Melanctha has to do the “remembering for us both”.

182
Melanctha’s “in the moment” elitism.

183
The surety of desire. Her final pitch.

186
“lost his feeling of deep awe”

Beautiful long passage on the awe of suffering and how it melts away in those too experienced at it: “In tendered natures…. to bear it.”

188
“real religion” gone

189
Because he could remember, he should endure her retribution. [The moral agent has this burden.]

190
Bitterness not at her but at himself for having permitted himself the illusion.

192
“to be really loving right [two] must be thinking each one as good as the other”

193
Failure at knowledge left him quiet and sodden. Beauty gone.

201
Rose’s simplicity contrasted with Jeff’s complexity. [Rose stood for Stein’s rival in Bookstaver’s affections.]

203
Melanctha’s passion for Jeff “killed.”

205-6
There is development in Jeff [Stein], none in Melanctha. Her tragedy is that she cannot remember, consigned to wandering.

207
Jeff learned something from the experience. [However little it can serve as motivation for having it.]

208
A remarkable phrase: six negatives!

210
Rose: solid, simple, certain.

216
Wandering.

226
Rose’s killing remark repeated.

 

“The Gentle Lena”

241
“old-world ignorance”

247
Lena, unexpectant, unsuffering. German Nature.

250
[Mrs. Hayden, Lena’s aunt, a distillation of the Weiningerian matronly “matchmaker.” As Melanctha had been of the “prostitute” archetype.]

252
Blindness of instinctive matchmakers.

259
A comment (through the kindly German cook) on Mrs. Hayden’s matchmaking “vice”.

268
Illustration of Stein’s interest in character: in this case Irish “dirt” and German “dirt” in immigrant families.

279
Stein’s compassion for the Lena type (voiced via the German cook).

Posted by luno in Stein, Weininger (Tuesday August 5, 2008 at 11:52 am)
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