“Jeff Campbell then began again on the old papers. He sat there on the steps just above where Melanctha was sitting, and he went on with his reading, and his head went moving up and down, and sometimes he was reading, and sometimes he was thinking about all the things he wanted to be doing, and then he would rub the back of his dark hand over his mouth, and in between he would be frowning with his thinking, and sometimes he would be rubbing his head hard to help his thinking. And Melanctha just sat still and watched the lamp burning, and sometimes she turned it down a little, when the wind caught it and it would begin to get to smoking” (Stein 119).
The beginning of the passage starts off by telling the reader only the physical aspects of Jeff and what he is doing. The narrator tells you where he sits in relation to Melanctha, what he is doing, and the movements of his body. Then the narrator begins to tell you what he is thinking about and although it may not go into great detail, you find out more about what Jeff is thinking about that Melanctha. All you ever find out about her is that she watched the lamp burning and sometimes she would turn it down. This is a symbol of the characters as a whole because as the story goes on, you tend to find out more about Jeff than Melanctha, even though the story is about her. You read the whole novel on Melanctha thinking you understand her character and her actions but by the end you realize that you know very little about her, what she thinks, or the psychology behind her actions. In fact, you hardly know anything besides what she herself says. The author stresses this subtly through the narration of the novel because even then, you know very little about Melanctha but more about the other characters.
Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” Three Lives. New York: Grafton, 1909. Ebook.