Tag Archives: confusion

Vardaman’s Understanding of Death

“My mother is a fish” (84).

Source:

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text. New York: Modern Library, 2000. Print.

This quotation refers to a poignant moment within Faulkner’s work.  Vardaman, the youngest of the children, compares his notion of his mother to a fish that died that day.  It demonstrates his confusion toward the concept of death in general and “death’s” constant  presence within the novel itself.

Delay and Confusion in “Melanctha”

“Jeff sat there this evening in his chair and was silent a long time, warming himself with the pleasant fire.  He did not look at Melanctha who was watching.  He sat there and just looked into the fire.  At first his dark, open face was smiling, and he was rubbing the back of his black-brown hand over his mouth to help him in his smiling.  Then he was thinking, and he frowned and rubbed his head hard, to help him in his thinking.  Then he smiled again, but now his smiling was not pleasant.  His smile was now wavering on the edge of scorning.  His smile changed more and more, and then he had a look as if he was bitter in his smiling, and he began, without looking from the fire, to talk to Melanctha, who was now very tense with her watching” (80).

This passage demonstrates Stein’s ability to manipulate the way in which readers perceive her narrative.  Rather than just outwardly stating that Jeff transitioned into a bitter mood as he spent that evening with Melanctha, Stein provides details of his changing facial expressions and body language so that readers are learning of his changing mood at the same time that Melanctha is within the story.  This delay adds a sense of confusion to the text and ultimately seems to work with Stein’s writing style.

Source:

Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” Three Lives. New York: Dover Publications, 1994. Print.

Melanchta

“Jeff Campbell never knew very well these days what it was that was going on inside him. All he knew was, he was uneasy now always to be with Melanchta. All he knew was, that he was alway uneasy when he was with Melanchta, not the way he used to be from just not being very understanding, but now, because he never could be honest with her, because he was now always feeling her strong suffering, in her, but he knew now he was having a straight, good feeling with her, but she was so fast, and he was so slow to her; Jeff knew his right feeling never got a chance to show itself strong, to her.”

Stein, Gertrude, “Melanchta” in Three Lives, Dover Publication, 1994, p96.

After several paragraphs on the confused thoughts of Jeff Campbell, the repetition of the verb know is used to show how the character tries to assure his feelings to himself even though we can see that he’s still very confused and doesn’t know how to deal with it.