Intentional Juvenile Diction

In Melanctha, both the vocabulary and syntax are undoubtedly simple.  The repetition of names, specific terms, and explanations are tedious, however they offer an unusual argument.  Without heavy description of the setting or characters, we rely on the narration to find feeling through several perspectives.

The Cubist movement was known for its use of simultaneous perspective in painting, much like Stein’s Melanctha. To someone oblivious of a painting that is done by Picasso, they may immediately conclude that the painting’s shapes, colors, and overall execution is simple.  However, the communication being transmitted through the art is carries a larger message.  Although Stein uses elementary words and childish repetition, she is able to convey complicated ideas using each character’s view.

“Melanctha Herbert never really lost her sense that it was Jane Harden who had taught her, but Jane did many things that Melanctha now no longer needed.  And then, too, Melanctha never could remember right when it came to what she had done and what had happened.  Melanctha now sometimes quarreled with Jane, and they no longer went about together, and sometimes Melanctha really forgot how much she owned to Jane Harden’s teaching.”


Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” In Three Lives. New York: Grafton, 1909. Internet Archive.