Tag Archives: suffer

A Little Affair

“‘Ought to have a look at the proud father. They’re usually the worst sufferers in these little affairs,’ […] He pulled the blanket away from the Indian’s head. His hand came away wet. […] The Indian lay with his face toward the way. HIs throat had been cut from ear to ear. The blood had flowed down into a pool where his body sagged the bunk. His head rested on his left arm. The open razor lay, edge up, in the blankets” (18).

The doctor makes a statement that  generally fathers cannot stand to watch a Caesarian being performed on their wives, and that they experience great pain just by witnessing the event, but then he discovers that the father who was seemingly calm could not bear to live. I think it is interesting how a birth and a death occur in the same room and within minutes of one another. The language used in this passage is “matter of the fact” because there is nothing poetic or flowery about the Indian’s suicide. I thought it was interesting how Nick and Uncle George had names but the Indian characters did not. This may suggest that the “little affair” that occurred in the shanty that night was not unique to that couple. Other Indian fathers had committed suicide, or more generally speaking, other Indians had been suffering.

Hemingway, Ernest. “The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife.” In Our Time. New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 2003. 18. Print.

Jeff and The Reader trying to understand Melanctha

“‘Sometimes I certainly don’t rightly see Melanctha, how much more game that is than just the ordinary kind of holler.’ ‘No, Jeff Campbell, and made the way you is you certainly ain’t likely ever to be much more understanding.’ ‘No, Melanctha, nor you neither. You think always, you are the only one who ever can do any way to really suffer.'”

Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” Three Lives. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1994. 106. Print.

The first thing that is worth noticing about this section of dialogue between Melanctha and Jeff is Stein’s emphasis on their inability to understand each other. Stein constantly portrays Melanctha as stubbornly insisting that she is right, yet we never know what she is truly feeling. On the other hand, the reader actually does hear Jeff’s thoughts, and we can understand his own doubts and assurances as they come and go. Therefore, the lack of understanding between Jeff and Melanctha is actually more focused on the reader’s inability to understand Melanctha and what Melanctha wants–we have the same struggle as Jeff.
This specific portion of dialogue, Jeff is expressing to Melanctha how he has very little reverence for her type of “bravery” or “suffering,” in which she constantly allows herself to be hurt and then “hollers” about it. He calls it the “ordinary kind of holler,” trying to show her that she is no more brave or understanding than people who provoke fights and trouble, only to later regret it. These sentiments seem to attack the core of what Melanctha wants: “excitement,” something Jeff believes blacks should stay away from. However, Melanctha refuses to accept these sentiments, insisting that Jeff is just of a different “way” and therefore he can’t be “understanding.” This idea that one must be a certain “way” to really understand and to really suffer is one of the tensions between Jeff and Melanctha: Jeff, while living his regular life, did not know how to suffer until he comes into contact with Melanctha, whose strong emotional ways teach him to suffer. While the reader can see the harsh effects of Melanctha’s ways on Jefferson, we are not sure if Melanctha is changed by Jeff.

Whose Thoughts Are These?

“In tender hearted natures, those that mostly never feel strong passion, suffering often comes to make them harder. When these do not know in themselves what it is to suffer, suffering is then very awful to them and they badly want to help everyone who ever has to suffer, and they have a deep reverence for anybody who knows really how to always suffer. But when it comes to them to really suffer, they soon begin to lose their fear and tenderness and wonder. Why it isn’t so very much to suffer, when even I can bear to do it. It isn’t very pleasant to be having all the time, to stand it, but they are not so much wiser after all, all the others just because they know too how to bear it” (page 110).

Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” In Three Lives. 1909. Reprint, New York: Dover, 1994.

Throughout the story there tends to be passages of free indirect discourse various times, however this passage does not necessarily provide free indirect discourse. It is doing quite the opposite. This passage is fairly different & unique to the story. It’s almost as if the narrator is giving some form of insight to the reader. However, the main element that makes this passage so idiosyncratic or distinctive is due to the fact that “I” is used. It is not in quotes, so it cannot be dialogue & it doesn’t seem to reflect a character’s thought process. Can this be the narrator putting their two cents within the story?