Three Lives Quotes
by Gertrude Stein

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Quotes

Mrs. Lehntman was the only romance Anna ever knew. Romance is the ideal in one's life and it is very lonely living with it lost.

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At this point, the generous and frugal servant Anna lends Mrs. Lehntmen, her working-class friend, money to buy a boarding house. We learn repeatedly that Mrs. Lehntmen is Anna's only romance, and we learn in this quote how important romance is to Anna's life.

Melanctha Herbert was always seeking rest and quiet, and always she could only find new ways to be in trouble.

The above sentence summarizes the way the strong-willed and intelligent Melanctha spends her life looking for meaning and an undefinable "more" that always eludes her.

You certainly never can learn no way Melanctha ever with all I certainly been telling to you, ever since I know you good, that it ain’t never no way like you do always is the right way you be acting ever and talking, the way I certainly always have seen you do so Melanctha always. I certainly am right Melanctha about them ways you have to do it, and I knows it; but you certainly never can noways learn to act right Melanctha, I certainly do know that, I certainly do my best Melanctha to help you with it only you certainly never do act right Melanctha, not to nobody ever, I can see it. You never act right by me Melanctha no more than by everybody.

The above passage, in which Rose Johnson chides Melanctha for being such a difficult person, shows Stein's experimental style. Stein uses repetition in all three stories, as she does throughout her writing, but "Melanctha" is stylistically the most experimental of this set of stories. The repetition emphasizes Rose's frustration with her friend as well as her lazy inability to articulate the details of her frustration.

It was all a peaceful life for Lena, almost as peaceful as a pleasant leisure. The other girls, of course, did tease her, but then that only made a gentle stir within her.

Stein repeats this phrase several times in the story, making it a leitmotif associated with Lena, who is happy, as the story opens, working as a maid for a Bridgeport (Baltimore) family. This quote helps characterize Lena as an introverted, inwardly focused character whose interiority is not usually deeply touched by what is going on around her.