Tag Archives: Jefferson

Is Jeff Campbell the answer to Melanctha’s wandering in life?

“He always found life very easy did Jeff Campbell, and everybody liked to have him with them. He was so good and sympathetic, and he was so earnest and so joyous. He sang when he was happy, and he laughed, and his was the free abandoned laughter that gives the warm broad glow to negro sunshine.”

Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” Three lives. New York: Dover Publications, 1994. 63. Print.

In this particular passage, I noticed that Jeff Campbell was strikingly different from Melanctha. All throughout Melanctha’s childhood and adolescence, Melanctha strives to understand and gain wordly knowledge. While the book does not let us know what she specifically wants (I’m not sure if Melanctha even knows it herself), it is apparent that she strongly desires to understand “the secret of the world” (that is how I read it). Therefore, she wanders from guy to guy or from place to place in search of that thing she desires (whatever it may be). This passage, however, introduces a new man who finds life very easy. It made me think how different he is from Melanctha who is constantly in search of the thing that will satisfy her desire. I’m not sure if this man has already found it but it was interesting to come across a character so different from her. Also, in this last part of the passage, it describes Jeff Campbell as having this “free abandoned laughter that gives the warm broad glow to negro sunshine”. This particular description was mentioned twice before this passage and the two people (Rose and Melanctha’s father) did not have this smile. And they are two people who are no longer in Melanctha’s life. Was Melanctha searching for a person with this feature? Why this particular feature?

Free Indirect Discourse

And yet, perhaps Melanctha really loved him. And then she would know how much it hurt him never any more, any way, to see her, and perhaps she would write a line to tell him. But that was a foolish way for Jeff ever to be thinking. Of course Melanctha never would write a word to him” (114).

Free indirect discourse is used in this passage when the narrator channels Jefferson’s thought process and says, “and perhaps she would write a line to tell him.” This line expresses Jefferson’s hope that Melanctha would write him back. The narrative voice then switches back to the omnicent narrator when he/she states, “But that was a foolish way for Jefff ever to be thinking.”