Gertrude Stein American Literature Analysis
Stein believed that the struggle of thought to come to consciousness best revealed the shape and feel of human experience. In a career that spanned three decades, she sought to answer three questions: What is mind? What is writing? How are they connected? Her answers to these questions shattered the conventions of narrative writing and unsettled the reliance of fiction on character, description, and plot.
In her first book, Three Lives, about three working-class women in Baltimore, she endeavored to tell a traditional story with a beginning, middle, and end. She discovered, however, that by deliberately misplacing words she could evoke a continuous present in which the characters seemed to unfold before the reader’s eyes. One of the book’s stories, “Melanctha,” was considered an almost perfect example of the modern short story. Typically, though, Stein never repeated the effort. She sought new literary territory that not even she had visited before.
In her next work, The Making of Americans, about two American families, she slowly expanded her chronicle until it became a history of the whole of human endeavor. Through repeated rewritings, she discovered that by beginning again and again she could weave the past and future into a continuous present. The book swelled to almost a thousand pages. In the meantime, she began composing word portraits of the people around her, using everything she could collect from their...
(The entire section is 3278 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Gertrude Stein Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!