EESE 6/2001

"Caring for the careless," Or: Rearranging a Literary Masquerade - Gertrude Stein's "Four Lives"

Helmut Schwarztrauber (Erfurt)

Carl Van Vechten
Photographs Collection
Library of Congress

"Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) differed from most of her contemporaries by being female, Jewish, lesbian, and well-educated."1 Even in 1910 this was a lot to swallow all at once for a cultural establishment of critics and literati which had been founded not by mothers but by so-called "Pilgrim Fathers" in order to till in essentially masculine fashion the "Virgin Land," as it was called in this cultivation myth.2 It was then that the Indian first mother Squaw Sachem had been expelled from her wilderness paradise by the harbinger of puritan Anglo-Saxon culture, who saw himself as the "American Adam"3 and so usually covered his sex with a fig leaf until well into the 20th century.

Gertrude Stein's career and also her fame began with the publication of Three Lives (1909), three seemingly inconspicuous and mundane biographical portraits of three women: "The Good Anna," "Melanctha," and "The Gentle Lena."4 Three stories, 280 pages of quite explosive potential, but of course this is not apparent at first sight. A mysteriously suggestive hidden import under the surface adds to the bewilderment of readers and critics who are at a loss to find any conclusive link between the stories. The ambivalent estimation that these stories "have a quite extraordinary vitality conveyed in a most eccentric and difficult form" showing that they "utterly lack construction and focus"5 seemed to be a formula that designated not only the early critical reviews but lay the basis for the further treatment of the stories even by postmodern criticism. And so critics have tended to isolate "Melanctha" - "according to the general agreement the big thing in Three Lives"6 - out of its original context. As it appeared to be evident that "the three stories are perhaps more important for their differences between 'Melanctha' and the other two tales,"7 one tried, on the one hand, to show its influence on the dealing of critics and writers such as Carl Van Vechten, Eugene O'Neill and Sherwood Anderson with "negro live,"8 neglecting the fact that Melanctha is not just "a Negress" or the type of "a colored woman," nor really a representative of "black people,"9 but - as we will see later - rather meant to be the symbolic type of the universally black and white, being "pale yellow and mysterious" (90). On the other hand, the concentration on "Melanctha" served, linguistically, "to show how big a step Gertrude Stein takes into abstractionism"10 and "experimental writing,"11 psychologically, how consistent her step is "from a Jamesian notion of selective attention to a psychoanalytic one."12 Putting Three Lives aside, critics became preoccupied with the "anarchic" Gertrude Stein: the unintelligible and unreadable, the Gertrude Stein of the "automatic writing," Tender Buttons (1914) and the later "portraits" being the paradigms.13

This essay14 tries to give a re-reading of the three stories of Three Lives within their genuine context and to build up the structural unity of the work by a change of perspective that seems to be logically enforced by the questions which are systematically opened to an unbiassed reader. It therefore seems necessary first to establish a reading of Three Lives as it might be suggested by the surficial mode of G. Stein's presentation of the text.


"The good Anna," heroine of the first of the three fictional biographies, manages and dominates the entire household of "Miss Mathilda" in the small middle class town of Bridgepoint, obviously a metonymic everywhere and nowhere in America.15 Within five years the 40-year-old housekeeper had succeeded in hiring more than a dozen "under servants," only to dive them out of the house through her "constant scolding" because they fell short of her standards.

But Anna also chides her mistress, who is "careless" (21) with her money and time, and also neglectful of her outward appearance - "large and lazy" (21): Miss Mathilda spends the household money that Anna saves on useless things - antique porcelain, etchings, or oil paintings (which she collects) - instead of finally buying herself a decent dress. So Anna thinks she has "to watch and care for her and all her clothes and goods" (22). Miss Mathilda willingly submits to Anna's all-embracing care. The social hierarchy remains untouched, however, because of Miss Mathilda's money and education. But Anna is never allowed to sense this, and we are told that not infrequently Miss Mathilda has had to save "her Anna" from the latter's friends when they took advantage of her kindness during her twenty years in Bridgepoint.

The second part, entitled "The Life of Good Anna," tells the story of these friendships and stresses the relationship to Miss Mathilda as the high point in Anna's life.

Anna Federner had settled in Bridgepoint after the death of her mother, with whom she had emigrated from southern Germany to America a short time earlier. Raised according to "a firm old world sense of what was the right way for a girl to do" (24), she works in the homes of single women and men, all of whom are in their own way disorganized and "careless or all helpless" (25), and who are virtually unable to survive without the kind of orderly German solicitousness - the "caring" - that Anna provides. Her relationship to these people, her "caring for the careless," is as complex as the meaning of the word "care": as a housemaid at the age of twenty Anna takes care of Miss Mary Wadsmith, who is overwhelmed by the task of raising the two children of her late brother (and his wife). The rivalry with the adolescent Jane provokes a domestic power struggle in which, after a number of years, Anna is only able to gain the upper hand by threatening to give notice. Anna is then 27, and from then on she is absolute ruler in Miss Wadsmith's house for a further six years. This victory also establishes her in the social structure of the town and gains her respect for her skill in household politics.

In private life Anna carries on a friendship with a widow several years older than herself, Mrs. Lehntman, who is not as helpless as Miss Wadsmith but just as careless. Mrs. Lehntman had been a midwife, but now delivers primarily "young girls who were in trouble" and puts them up in her home for a short period. The person who really does the caring, however, is the good Anna. But with regard to Mrs. Lehntman - "very attractive, very generous, and very amiable" (30) - Anna's caring obviously goes beyond the limits of work and charity: in short, "The widow Mrs. Lehntman was the romance in Anna's life" (30). Such a relationship, of course, has nothing to do with domestic power; rather, it becomes a power struggle of feelings, in which Anna is at first inferior: "Mrs. Lehntman was the only one who had power over Anna." (31) This dependency becomes vitally important for Anna, because only Mrs. Lehntman can convince her to accept help from Dr. Shonjen, who orders an operation when she is seriously ill. Mrs. Lehntman is also able to persuade Anna to give up her stressful position with Miss Wadsmith and take over the household of the bachelor Dr. Shonjen, beginning "her new life taking care of Dr. Shonjen" (37). Anna is happy there because the doctor and his "bachelor friends" always allow her to mother and fuss over them. With her greater self-confidence Anna gradually becomes the stronger partner in the by now six-year-old relationship with Mrs. Lehntman. She interferes in Mrs. Lehntman's careless upbringing of her two children, whom Anna keeps in check with her infallible "scolding."

When, however, Mrs. Lehntman adopts the "little baby boy" of one of the fallen girls without asking Anna, the latter is deeply hurt, probably because she fears losing her dominant position. But Anna's wrath at "careless" Mrs. Lehntman soon gives way to a silent, reflective sadness. Anna cannot end what is called "her only romance," "this idealised affection," "her affair [...] too sacred" (46). Mrs. Lehntman now exploits Anna's emotional dependency for her plans to organize a large-scale charity operation for girls. When Mrs. Lehntman rents a large house despite Anna's opposition, Anna knows she has lost: she donates all her savings to the girls' home project for the sake of her romance, although she feels it to be a mistake. The power struggle of emotions has a victor: "Mrs. Lehntman had very surely won." (54) Even the idealized "mutual need" of their emotional relationship is brought back to the level of "caring for the careless": Anna's "need" is still feeling, missing and a longing for the other. Her friend's "need" is only using and calculating, exploiting Anna's caring.

Anna wanted Mrs. Lehntman very much and Mrs. Lehntman needed Anna. [...] Now Mrs. Lehntman could always hold out longer. She knew too, that Anna had a feeling heart. [...] Poor Anna had no power to say no. (55)

That Anna's emotional involvement was a mistake is soon born out by the bitter truth she has already foreseen: her ideal relationship is betrayed to a man, "a new doctor that Mrs. Lehntman knew" (56).

Not only is Anna's romance destroyed by a man, but her sphere of influence in the bachelor Dr. Shonjen's household is threatened by a woman whom he plans to marry. Sadly but resolutely, Anna quits the home now ruled by the usurper of her domestic power.

Anna now takes up the position with Miss Mathilda, caring for another lackadaisical spinster: "So Anna began a new life taking care of [...] careless Miss Mathilda." (61) These are the happiest years of the good Anna's life. She can rule and scold while at the same time respecting and admiring her wealthy and highly educated mistress:

Yes, taking care of Miss Mathilda were the happiest days of all the good Anna's strong hard working life. (63)

Anna's emotional relationship to Miss Mathilda nevertheless remains unsymmetrical - eclipsed by the working relationship, forced under and never openly expressed - though it does protect her from the cruel disappointment of her romance with Mrs. Lehntman. The term "romance" is superceded by "happy family." The story now settles into the fairytale domestic idyll described at the beginning, with Miss Mathilda, Anna and the stray dogs under her charge, her "children": "Sally and old Baby and young Peter and the jolly little Rags."(68)

Miss Mathilda was not a romance in the good Anna's life, but Anna gave her so much strong affection that it almost filled her life as full. (64) [...] It was a very happy family there all together in the kitchen [...]. (68)

There can only follow the anticlimax of Anna's happiness, initiated when Miss Mathilda resumes her nomadic life style - "Miss Mathilda was given to much wandering and often changed her home" (75) - , an eventuality mentioned at her interview five years earlier but subsequently repressed and forgotten in Anna's quotidian happiness.

The third part anticipates the ending in its title: "The Death of Good Anna" (77). Anna's last years are described as a suicidal withdrawal from life. Having been left in charge of Miss Mathilda's house and vaguely hoping for her return, Anna temporarily rents the newly vacated rooms to lodgers whom she can scold and order about in typical fashion. But the great void in her emotional life leads to physical symptoms of world-weariness and dejection. Once again Anna becomes ill and must have an operation. Someone, at least, is with her when she dies: Mrs. Drehten, a friend with whom she had always shared Weltschmerz of both a general and particular kind and who was now herself suffering from a tumor. Mrs. Drehten's letter to Miss Mathilda closes with Anna's last message to life - and to Miss Mathilda.

"[...] Miss Annie died easy, Miss Mathilda, and sent you her love." (82)

Anna's life is the story of complementary relationships, of "caring for the careless," in which it is primarily Anna who does the caring, and she does it with the full spectrum of meaning from formal service to charity to romance. Anna's greeting to Miss Mathilda transforms the meanings of the verbal mask "care" explicitly into that which remains unexpressed and unfulfilled, yet still her ultimate longing: "love," literally Anna's final utterance before her demise and before the last word of the text - "FINIS."

"Caring for the careless" seems to be the uninsidious role pattern that makes the taboo homosexual feelings between women possible, or rather more suggestively than explicitly portrayable.16 The fact that Anna's story ends in sadness and death, although she learned to be flexible in playing her role, leaves the reader unsatisfied. The separation remains mysteriously incomprehensible, especially as Mathilda's penchant for "wandering" is made clear at the very outset. The fairytale domestic idyll, an ideally happy situation for them both, still cannot induce Miss Mathilda to settle down, and Anna is not the only one who finds it inexplicable. This course of events implies the major question: Who is this mysticized, blissfully husbandless, nameless, "large and lazy," "large and careless mistress" "Miss Mathilda" (21 f.), "[who] was given to much wandering" (75)? For now let us leave the question open, as does the text.


"Melanctha," the second story, is also constructed around a "caring for the careless" pattern of relationships. In a poor black district of the same town, Melanctha Herbert cares attentively for her pregnant friend Rose Johnson and then for the baby: "She tended Rose and she was patient and submissive, soothing, and untiring." (85) But while Melanctha is away for a few days the baby is neglected by its mother and dies: a daily occurrance among poor blacks, it is said, and one for which no one is made to answer. Why did the subtle, intelligent, attractive Melanctha Herbert love and do for and demean herself in service to this coarse, decent, sullen, ordinary, black childish Rose [...]." (86) This question, why Melanctha renders devoted care to this "careless and negligent and selfish" (85) Rose, to whom she has no formal obligations, establishes Melanctha's biographical characteristics. And this question has a preliminary hypothetical answer which does call for a biographical explanation. Sometimes the thought of how all her world was made, filled the complex, desiring Melanctha with despair. She wondered, often, how she could go on living when she was so blue. (87)

"Blue" means here "depressive" and "melancholy," as already the originally Greek name "Melanctha - Black Earth," ambivalently suggests: black, dark, gloomy, and sad. So the dictionary definitions of "blue," in addition to the denotative color designation, include, specifically of a woman, " intelligent and even learned" (cf. "bluestocking"); and it connotes "indecent and profane," indicating unconventional social and linguistic behavior; a psycho-moral aspect of socialization in "puritanical" and "repressive"; and it has the psycho-pathological meaning "depressing" as "low in spirits" and "melancholical," and also refers to a facial expression designating extreme exhaustion or "exasperation."17 This complex of meanings for the word "blue" also reflects Melanctha's process of individuation with all its contradictory and psychosomatic complexity. In reverting to her past this process now develops as an intelligent woman's attempt at self-realisation in the face of the repressive, puritanical conventions of her milieu. The story begins, then, with the last phase of this development: despair, depression, and suicidal syndrome.

Melanctha's past is portrayed in light of her present relationship to Rose, who, raised by whites, has adapted herself to the black social milieu and follows with calculating conformity the conventional code of behavior she has learned, i.e. to do what is "decent." "Simple decent Rose" is set up in contrast to "complex blue Melanctha" (87).

Melanctha Herbert had not made her life all simple like Rose Johnson. Melanctha Herbert always loved too hard and much too often. (89)

Even as a child "blue" Melanctha had used her intelligence in disputes with her uneducated parents, sometimes in correspondingly profane language: "a tongue that could be very nasty" (91). For "Melanctha had not loved her father and her mother" (90), always in defense against her "bitter youth" (90), against the suppressive parental socialisation, "raised to be religious by her mother" (89/90), following her mother only from appearance being "pale yellow and mysterious" (90), and rebelling against her "very unendurable black father" (90).

Early on she breaks with her parents, resisting the brutal, jealous alcoholic father, who threatens to kill her because she spends far too much time hanging about the horses at a nearby stable. At this point Melanctha has just turned 12 and arrived at puberty. The victory over her father means the awakening of Melanctha's self-confidence, the "Fall of Woman": "Melanctha now really was beginning as a woman." (95) She begins to "wander," a metaphor for her journey of self-confidence before the retreating horizon of that which is described as her goal: "real knowledge," "wisdom."

Melanctha's "wanderings" sometimes leads her to railway yards, where she flirts with the workers who become test subjects of her feminine power game. She does not gain her much sought-after "knowledge" from men, however. It is the 23-year-old Jane Harden, an experienced woman, who, despite having been expelled from college, instructs the 16-year-old Melanctha: "She taught her how to go the ways that lead to wisdom." (103)

Jane [...] told Melanctha many things. She loved Melanctha hard and made Melanctha feel it very deeply. [...] In every way she got it from Jane Harden. There was nothing good or bad in doing, feeling, thinking or in talking, that Jane spared her [...]. (106)

Melanctha is not learning Ovidian techniques for attracting lovers; rather, she is being shown the psychological abysses of amorous experience, the dependence and humiliation that come with testing the limits of surrender to the beloved - in short, the power politics of the passions. This psycho-trip extends her consciousness of love's dimensions, free from morality and the imposition of sexual role conventions.

After two years Melanctha has achieved autonomy, not founded on "decency" but on the conscious experience of emotional mechanisms. She has freed herself from her long subservience to Jane. Independent and self-reliant, Melanctha begins to wander again, seeking more knowledge from men. After a number of experiments, she believes she has found what she seeks in the mulatto Jefferson Campbell, an intelligent young doctor. While Melanctha is willing to commit herself fully to this relationship, her new admirer remains cautious, even when he helps Melanctha in caring for her invalid mother. While sitting up nights with the patient, they engage in dialogues that present a kind of critical analysis of this man who, afraid of love and his own emotions, represses his basic need for love by mentally constructing an idealistic way of life based on parental love, compassion and self-discipline, "[...] taking care of people, and trying to understand it" (117).

Melanctha, who loves and wants him whatever the consequences, exposes Jeff's contradictions between high-toned moralizing and real desires - "You want to have a good time just like all of us others" (118). Again and again she demands his un-self-conscious love and rebukes him for seeking refuge in thought so as to control his feelings: "Don't you ever stop with your thinking long enough ever to have any feeling Jeff Campbell?" (132) He asks for reassurance about the degree of her love - "Tell me [...] how much do you care about me, Miss Melanctha" (132) - and she responds in the form of a sibyllinic oracle using Jeff's uninsidious verbal mask "care."

"Care about you Jeff Campbell," said Melanctha slowly. "I certainly do care for you Jeff Campbell less than you are always thinking and much more than you are ever knowing." (132)

Through its implicit logic, the play on words is a categorical rejection of Jeff's reflective and ideological "love" and at the same time the confession of a love which his attitude will never allow him to understand.

The dialogue continues after the mother's death, and takes on the function of working out the man's schizoid role expectations through a split image of woman that reflects nothing other than the split in his own mind between the "good," ideal self driven by conventional ideas and the unconscious self consumed by fear and guilt: the split between intellectuality and conscience, on the one side, and emotion and instinct, on the other.

Jeff, then, can only see Melanctha in terms of a stereotypically puritan contradiction, as either whore or madonna. He sees in her "a real beauty," "a real sweetness" (138) - towards whom he has feelings of religious adoration. Conversely, he sees her as a femme fatale, who arouses in him fear of the mystical uncertainty of woman, the overwhelming power of emotion, and the archetypal fear of being drowned: "[...] and then I certainly do get awful afraid to come to you." (139) Jeff's concept of love reflects his ambivalent image of woman: on the one hand, "good quiet feeling in a family" (124) and on the other "loving [...] just like any animal that's low in the streets together" (124).

The conflict between these two preconceptions means that neither one will prevail, and there is even less chance of their becoming unified. A recurring ritual of separation and reconciliation is set in motion, a battle of the sexes with no hope of resolution, because the two minds function in essentially different ways.

It was a struggle that was sure always to be going on between them, as their minds and hearts always were to have different ways of working. (153)

The waning phase of their love transpires as Melanctha again takes up her "wandering." When Jeff realises that he is losing her, that she is slipping away, he begins to abandon his conflicting ideas of sexual roles. But it is too late.

It was as if now, when he had learned to really love Melanctha, she did not need any more to have him. (188) [...] It hurt him so, he could not bear it. [...] Now Jeff Campbell knew he was really understanding. (204)

Jeff's learning process is bought with sexual frustration, with the loss of love and extreme suffering. In consequence, however, he reverts to his former role concept of social caring. When he sees that Melanctha also goes out with another man he parts from her forever, not without assuring her, generously and from a safe distance, of his charitable and brotherly love: "He be like a brother to her always, when she needs it." (206)

Now Melanctha spends most of her time with her new friend Rose. And the question posed at the outset - why an intelligent girl like Melanctha would concern herself with such a lazy stupid person as Rose - is answered now against the background of Melanctha's complicated emotional life: in the crisis of her separation from Jeff, Rose, with her simple conformist survival strategies, embodies Melanctha's other self. Purely in order to survive, this other self longs for the security of convention, for "decent comfort" (202), as exemplified by Rose.

After her marriage, however, Rose no longer allows Melanctha to live with her, for "Rose had strong the sense for proper conduct" (215). In truth, Rose is worried about her "assets" and allows "blue Melanctha" to visit her only so that she can exploit the latter's clinging nature for her own mundane, petty-minded convenience: Melanctha is welcome as caretaking housmaid. As a precaution she always sends Melanctha away before her husband comes home. When Melanctha realises what is happening, she takes her usual way out: "Melanctha Herbert began once more to wander." (216)

On the street Melanctha meets the shamelessly charming mulatto Jem Richards, "who had to do with fine horses and with racing" (217). Melanctha's life has come full circle: her love of horses, a projection of her longing for power and vitality, is revived in her relationship to Jem Richards. In him are reflected Melanctha's large, willful ego and her knowledge gained by experience. Also: "Jem Richards was a straight decent man" (217), or at least he has the appearance of decency, which quality plays a part in her longing for social respectability. In short: "Now in Jem Richards, Melanctha found everything she had ever needed to content her." (218)

Yet this love affair is also asymmetrical. In her love-mania Melanctha risks the unity of her own self without being sure of her partner: "Melanctha put all herself into Jem Richards. She was mad and foolish in the joy she had there." (219) According to the typically conventional Rose, "foolishness" is the opposite of "decency," for Rose knows that surrender without conditions does not bring a man to the altar. According to the empathetic narrator, "foolishness" implies the risk of true, ecstatic love beyond pragmatic reason and social comfort. Melanctha emerges from her identity built on "wisdom" for the sake of the one true love.

The story ends up in the time-frame of the opening: Rose has her baby, which dies as a result of its "careless" mother's irresponsibility. Melanctha's presentiment of love as a grand delusion brings back her thoughts of suicide, which Rose tries to dispel with the argument that killing oneself is just not "decent": "no kind of a way for any decent kind of a girl to do" (227). The immoral Rose denies Melanctha compassion at the very moment when Melanctha needs it most, "in the hope that Rose could save her" (211).

With the verdict that she is a girl who will never learn how "to act right, the way a decent girl has to do" (233), Rose puts Melanctha out of her house. Melanctha is dazed, hurt, lost to herself and the world, close to madness. Melanctha's tragic fate is sealed that same night, when she sees Jem Richards for the last time. He tells her of his travel plans and bids her a hearty and unkind farewell, expressing unequivocally that he doesn't care: "I don't give a damn now for you any more Melanctha." (234)

"Blue" Melanctha does not kill herself. She falls ill with a fever, and the only caring offered to her is medical treatment at a hospital, "where they took good care of her" (235). After an apparent recovery she is stricken with consumption. Again and finally she finds her home - an ironic metaphor for her own ever caring and self-consuming individuation - "where she would be taken care of, a home for poor consumptives, and there Melanctha stayed until she died" (236). "Complex blue Melanctha's" lifelong emancipatory search for identity and love ends in consumptive exhaustion, in depression and death. "Simple decent Rose" lives on, as we are told at the beginning, "always comfortable and rather decent and very lazy and very well content" (88).


Any reader hoping that a solution to the role problem may be found in the third story will be sadly disappointed. "The Gentle Lena" is, like the good Anna, of German stock and 21 years old. For four years now Lena Mainz has worked as a housemaid for Mrs. Aldrich, a single mother, whose two-year-old child Lena must look after. She spends Sundays quietly with her German aunt, Mrs. Haydon, wife of a German grocer. Unlike Anna, Lena has no interest in wielding domestic power; on the contrary, she has an earth mother's patience and elemental humanity, is "simple and human" (241).

Lena is the second of the five daughters of Mrs. Haydon's eldest brother, a poor farmer family of eight children back in Germany. Mrs. Haydon had brought the 17-year-old girl to Bridgepoint four years before because

Mrs. Haydon thought it would be a fine thing to take one of these girls back with her to Bridgepoint and get her well started. (245)

Mrs. Haydon's taking care of Lena, who seems to be careless in her own way, determines the course of the story. When Lena "did not think whether it would be different for her away off there in Bridgepoint" (246), Mrs. Haydon obtains for her a position as housekeeper for Mrs. Aldrich until she "could get her a good husband" (245), although "Lena did not care much to get married" (251).

The crossing to America with her aunt is an anticipatory metaphor for Lena's totally passive life: she cannot weather the storms and just gives in, fearing death from her terrible seasickness.

She just staid where she had been put, pale and scared, and weak and sick, and sure that she was going to die. (246)

She is able to forget her suffering only after she has been with Mrs. Aldrich for a while. Mrs. Haydon, however, remains the only member of "her family who took any interest in Lena" (247). Mr. Haydon considers her "stupid" and "very dull, and sure some day to need help and to be in trouble" (247), the son is quite obnoxious to her, and the two daughters, who are very conceited about having been born American, find it impossible to like this German Cinderella, being to them "little better than a nigger" (246). Above all they "hate that her mother should take Lena" (246) to their white and clean home in America. Yet Lena is unaware of the antipathy around her and even of her own against the others.

Lena never knew that she did not like them either. (248) [...] Lena did not know how all the Haydons felt. (249)

The man whom Mrs. Haydon picks out for Lena despite her basic disinterest is Herman Kreder, a 28-year-old German-American, who learned the men's tailoring business from his father. Only the young man is as little interested in marriage as Lena: "Herman Kreder did not care much to get married." (251) Herman is tied to his mother's apronstrings and more than likely a homophile: "He liked to be with men and he hated to have women with them." (251) As Lena's sexual identity is indifferent and unfocused, both young people are entirely at the mercy of their socialization, the taking care of their parental figures, who are agreed that the two make an ideal couple because they are both frugal, industrious and never willful. In reply to Mrs. Haydon's plans for her marriage, Lena can think of nothing but a slavishly obedient "Yes ma'am." Herman is not consulted at all. Mrs. Kreder "just told him [...]" (253). Three days before the ceremony, however, he evades the call of his wedding night and disappears without a trace. When Mr. Kreder finally locates his son the bridegroom at the home of his married daughter in New York, he wins Herman over by describing marriage as a business arrangement: "[...] a bargain just like one you make in business" (263). And the sister, who fears that something may have gone wrong in Herman's sexual development, carries the argument further by explaining that the patriarchal concept of marriage serves still another purpose: the bolstering of masculine identity.

It do you good really Herman to get married, and then you got somebody you can boss around when you want it. (266)

Finally the wedding takes place. Lena must now live in the Kreder house, described with satirical exaggeration as the embodiment of small-minded German work addiction and self-limitation as the only goal in life.

[...] keeping the house close and smelly so it costs less to get it heated, living so poorly not only so as to save money but so they should never even know themselves that they had it, working all the time [...] because from their nature they just had to [...]. (268)

But it does not matter at all to Lena, because she is German and because she always does what her husband says. Lena's principal characteristic, her carelessness, now expresses itself even in her physical appearance, meaning here total self-neglect in apathetic conformity to her situation.

[...] And Lena began soon with it to look careless and a little dirty, and to be more lifeless with it. (269)

Her mother-in-law, who has assumed the nagging rights, as it were, from Mrs. Haydon, only adds to Lena's joylessness. And only when Lena becomes pregnant does the lethargic Herman rouse himself to defend her from his quarrelsome mother, not because he has any special feeling for Lena but because he has internalized the father role: "Herman wanted strongly now to be a father." (275) He must have healthy children, meaning of course a healthy son: "[...] his baby should be a boy and healthy." (275) Lena has her child, but her condition reactivates the wretched feeling brought on earlier by her seasickness, "when she was so sick on the water [...] scared and still and lifeless" (276).

She does actually bear a healthy boy, but her behavior is still characterized by self-neglect and a sense of futility, which are only aggravated by the birth of two more children. Herman also takes on the mother role, the caring for the children, and behaves as if he were a child playing with dolls. He represses Lena's entire existence.

Herman never really cared about his wife Lena. [...] Lena was always more and more lifeless and Herman now mostly never thought about her. He more and more took all the care of their three children. (278)

The fourth child is stillborn, and Lena submits to her death in childbirth just as meekly as she has submitted to the conditions of her life.

When the baby was come out at last, it was like its mother lifeless. While it was coming, Lena had grown very pale and sicker. When it was all over Lena had died, too. (279)

Through Lena's death Herman Kreder is freed from any heterosexual role imposition, and is the happiest one of all.

Herman Kreder now always lived very happy [...]. He never had a woman any more to be all the time around him. (279)


Each of the three independent life stories develops to a tragic conclusion and is built around a circular time structure. Each story can stand alone, but there are similarities: their biographical subject, the lives of three women who live in the same place, though they have nothing to do with one another. These are exemplary destinies of women in an avarage small American city, where white German immigrants and blacks live in separate parts of town. They also have a central theme in common: the defeat of feminine individuation by the imposition of conventional sex roles. All three characters end in suicidal depression and death. A thoroughly unliterary, childlike narrative style, with its manneristic repetitions, creates a universal fairy tale trilogy in the fictitious, metonymously all-American Bridgepoint, where each time the expectation of poetic bliss is thwarted by the almost subcutaneous cruelty and tragedy of these commonplace lives. These considerations do not, however, yield any conclusive link between the stories.

The structural key to Three Lives emerges only, it seems, when one reads the three biographies in reverse order. Then the book is revealed to be a teleologically-directed typology of the growing evolution of feminine consciousness, that transforms the universal and static notion of the single female types of the three stories, which is established by the reassertive manneristic repetition of the substantive features of their female role behavior,18 into the progressive history of the female author's mind.

Seen in this way, "The Gentle Lena" describes the pre-reflexive state of consciousness that never attains an independent will because it has been repressed and made heteronymous from the outset through upbringing. Entirely at the mercy of her milieu, Lena's self-identity remains undeveloped. The weak-willed girl that is to be cared for by her "well meaning" (242) relations is shunted into the role of wife, though she is devoid of sexual consciousness. Her existential status consists in suffering. The man's situation is similar. His latent homosexuality is repressed by the imposed roles of husband and father, for which he is totally unprepared. He thus robs Lena of the mother role, because he subconsciously rejects and suppresses the woman's sexuality. Lena's pre-conscious essentiality is literally cannibalized to the point of physical extinction by role imposition. The social setting is characterized as that of lower middle-class German immigrants and becomes the paradigm of a narrow-minded patriarchal milieu as such, which causes a woman to become the victim of a man who is himself a victim. The word "love" is never mentioned.

Melanctha is the obvious next step, according to the logic of developmental psychology. She is not petty-bourgeois German and only partly white having inhaled the spirit of the place of her black and white socialisation: universal and American. Compared to gentle Lena's essentiality, Melanctha represents the awakening of individual consciousness - intelligent, self-reliant, female - , the building up of a self-confident ego in rebellion against the father, that is, against the conservative, patriarchal structures of society. Melanctha rejects the role her milieu prescribes for her and develops her identity, in free self-determination, in an idealistic quest for what is repeatedly proclaimed as "real experience," "real understanding," "real knowledge," "real wisdom," the goal of which she describes as "real love." In her search for her love ideal she sounds out the semantic potential of the word "care." Her open process of individuation begins with close-at-hand experience - her bosom friend Jane representing her homosexual non-ego - and proceeds to experience with the opposite sex. Melanctha's existence takes a tragic turn through her confrontation with traditional concepts of male roles, represented by examples of the two universal types: Jeff and Jem. Jeff embodies intellectual masculinity, beset by ambivalent role concepts - ambivalent because the man is prevented by his very intelligence and education from asserting his elemental sexual and emotional requirements against the conventional norms of his own consciousness. Jeff sublimates sexual need through the construct of "care" as brotherly love. Jem, on the other hand, is the recklessly vital man who satisfies Melanctha's unfulfilled sexuality. With him she takes the risk of surrendering all her self-autonomy because she believes that his caring finally means true unity, a love based on symmetrical feelings and states of mind. But Jem exploits just that vital side of Melanctha that Jeff has undermined and repressed. Jem has no real emotional involvement: "he doesn't really care." Melanctha, who gives everything she has in the way of conviction and emotion in order to experience the full potential of "caring" as the ideal unity of eros and agape - of sexuality and altruism - never finds a man and remains alone in a world of conventions that offers no "care" as love, but at most "decent comfort." But the self-reliant and emancipated woman is denied even this. For her "indecency" she undergoes a cruel and heartless punishment from the "decent, careless Rose": puritan patriarchal society has prepared the hell of loneliness for the "American Eve" after her fall from grace, and this hell is in effect the same as that which awaits the essential simple-mindedness of an undeveloped consciousness, as in the case of gentle Lena. For both there remains only a suicidal withdrawal from the world.

The logic of this catastrophic dialectic of female existence under German and American cultural determinants enforces a new beginning: the principally bisexual potential expounded in Melanctha lays the foundation for good Anna's lesbian identity. She, like gentle Lena, begins as a "simple German heart." Like Melanctha, however, she develops a self-confident willfulness, but this time not contrary to convention: after she has literally managed her way to recognition and matriarchal authority in her domain, she envisions an ideal homoerotic relationship - her "romance' with Mrs. Lehntman - behind her permissive role of "caring for the careless." Her plan fails, for while her milieu and her state of consciousness do not rule out a symmetrical relationship, her partner does not take her homosexual feelings seriously and instead exploits her emotional dependency. But in the end Anna's ideal of love is not shared, even when the relationship has succeeded in the form of "caring for the careless." This follows from the logic implicit in the behavior of Miss Mathilda, who does not give up her "wandering" on Anna's account despite a deep fondness for her. The family-like domestic relationship does not establish and develop an affinity between states of consciousness. Anna's petty-bourgeois German sense of order contradicts, in a sense, the artistic bohemianism of "careless" Miss Mathilda. Their separate worlds are revealed in Anna's "constant scolding."

A reverse-order reading of Three Lives suggests an evolution of female consciousness the actual telos of which remains empty. The word "love" as a noun first appears at the end of "The Good Anna," that is in the logic of the inverted series of three stories as an unobtained desideratum connected with the missing person, the mysterious "Miss Mathilda." Once again, who is this eccentric, husbandless, nameless, large and lazy, careless woman, who spends her time collecting paintings and roams the world like a true cosmopolitan? And what of the anonymous friend who represented Miss Mathilda and examines Anna at her interview, to the latter's great displeasure: the woman described with familiar empathy as "a dark, sweet gentle little mother woman," (61) who then vanishes from the text with no explanation? Above all, then - where is Mathilda, where have she and her friend gone? It cannot be Germany, for it is not the country of Anna's mother tongue: it is "a new country, where Anna could not live" (76). The empty space left behind by the two women poses the big open question: where is the missing link? where is the fourth biographical portrait, which actualises the ideal symmetrical relationship between women?


The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas is the biography of Gertrude Stein, published in 1933. She presents herself behind a new kind of mask hitherto unheard of. The full title is: Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.19 If one reads the book acknowledging the explicit authorship of Alice B. Toklas, one soon realises that it is actually the biography of Gertrude Stein, for it deals almost exclusively with her. If one follows the logic of the full title, then G. Stein is the explicit author of the so-called "Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas." The auto-biography is at the same time biography. Through the metalogic of confused authorship, Stein demonstrates the identity of the consciousness, of a shared life between herself and Alice B. Toklas, a woman who strikingly resembles the description of Miss Mathilda's friend who represents her at Anna's interview. G. Stein's disruption of generic norms - above all, the convention of the one author that the confessional speech act of autobiography has as yet been based on - serves as a mask and at the same time breaks the conventional taboo of lesbian sexuality with an open confession by means of form.20

Paris, where Alice joins Gertrude from San Francisco, where the two women live together in the Rue de Fleurus and where the Autobiography begins, closes Stein's literary journey of mental evolution. By way of the logic in the migration symbolism found in Three Lives (when read in reverse order), the male myth of westward movement, the immigrant's dream of self-realisation in freedom and self-determination, is revised. Lena, the petty-bourgeois German immigrant to America, actualises the American dream as a personal nightmare, that violently transforms the paradise of her pre-conscious essentiality into a deadly exploitive and inescapable role prison. Black-and-white Melanctha, the well-established "All-American Eve," almost Emersonian in her idealistic self-reliance, seeks self-determination by trusting in her awakened powers of intelligence and emotion and yet wanders into catastrophe, exhausted and destroyed by repressive behavioral codes and conventional ideas governing gender relationships. And Anna, who embodies a new attempt to realise the American dream with her vision of an ideal homosexual partnership in the safe confines of the permissible, founders on petty-bourgeois German attitudes brought from the Old World. Miss Mathilda, of German extraction, leaves all that behind, making the all-American middle-class Bridgepoint her existential "bridgepoint" to the original East. Her return to Europe disrupts and counteracts the continuity of the westward movement as cultural myth. The "American Eve" forsakes, transforms and displaces Virgin Land, the projected dream of the "American Adam," that presents itself even after more than two and a half centuries as a cultural wilderness.

The German-American Gertrude Stein also returns, to realise her unconventional dream in the art center of the new Old World, in Paris. The first thing she does there becomes a central theme of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas: she writes and completes Three Lives. Her empathetic literary portrait of the tragic Melanctha takes shape during walks between her flat in the Rue de Fleurus and Montmartre. "Melanctha's wanderings after wisdom" (Three Lives, 97) appear to be empathetic re-enactments of Gertrude's "wanderings" to the Rue Ravignan, where she sits for Picasso as he takes his famous portrait of her.

Practically every afternoon Gertrude Stein went to Montmartre, posed and then later wandered down the hill usually walking across Paris to the Rue de Fleurus.[...]
During these long poses and these long walks Gertrude Stein meditated and made sentences. She was then in the middle of her negro story Melanctha Herbert, the second story of Three Lives and the poignant incidents that she wove into the life of Melanctha were often these she noticed in walking down the hill from the Rue Ravignan. (49)

Art critics consider this picture the first in Picasso's "portrait as mask" style, in which the aim is not to give a detailed representation of physical features but rather to capture an almost sculptural eyeless presence of the subject's essential being. "[Picasso] did not merely paint what he saw; he painted what he 'knew'."21

The act of "wandering" as a journey of consciousness also links Gertrude Stein with Miss Mathilda, who in the end left the American Bridgepoint for Europe. In Picasso's picture we also encounter what in "The Good Anna" is described as Miss Mathilda's "carelessness" and what is frequently mentioned as a characteristic of Miss Stein, whose self-expression in hairstyle, clothing and posture showed "neglect" or suppression of feminine role expectations - she was "careless, large and lazy" like Miss Mathilda.22 Mathilda alias Gertrude Stein allows Picasso to elaborate her human identity in a pictorial portrait, while finding her own human and artistic identity through the portrait-masks of Three Lives. Picasso's portrait seems to proclaim G. Stein's "fourth life," which is established by The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, the literary imago of G. Stein's mental metamorphosis expressed in Three Lives.

By paraphrasing the painting process with the process of writing Three Lives, G. Stein alias Alice B. Toklas not only substantiates the internal connection between the genesis of the two works but also, through their analogous assessment, posits Gertrude Stein's own identity and significance as a literary artist.

In the long struggle with the portrait of Gertrude Stein, Picasso passed from the Harlequin, the charming Italian period to the intensive struggle which was to end in cubism. Gertrude Stein had written the story of Melanctha the negress, the second story of Three Lives which was the first definite step away from the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century in literature. (54)

In her salon on the Rue de Fleurus in Paris Gertrude Stein lives her ideal life. She does exactly what appeared to be Miss Mathilda's lifetime occupation: she collects old and new art, especially Impressionist and Cubist works. And she collects contemporary artists in her salon, which resembles a picture gallery. G. Stein alias Miss Mathilda no longer "wanders" the world. The world comes to her - she writes of "pilgrimages to the rue de Fleurus" (49): Henri Matisse, George Braque, Juan Gris and Pablo Picasso; Sherwood Anderson, Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and many others. She influences all of them.

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas describes the fulfillment of this ideal implicitly as an amorous relationship of two women, who share between them salon conversations with the geniuses and their wives in the art center of Europe: Rue de Fleurus No. 27. Stein bestows on her lover the authorship and literary accomplishment of her autobiography. The relationship is thus declared free of the employer-employee problem and the differences in education and social class that foiled the love between "Good Anna" and Miss Mathilda. The relationship model based on "caring for the careless" is made reversible through the logic of double authorship and confirms the absolute symmetry of the relationship implying all the possibilities of mutual "care." That is in any case what the text implicitly proclaims as being the autobiography of both23 and by that turning itself into fiction. It is only the metafictional reenforcement of the implied logic of the title when A. B. Toklas reveals in the last sentences of the book that Gertrude Stein was actually going to write Alice's autobiography, promising: "I am gong to write it as simply as Defoe did the autobiography of Robinson Crusoe." (A. B. Toklas, 252) By the open confession of mutual identity between the subjective ego and the objective non-ego, by feeling "the outside inside and the inside outside"24" G. Stein might have come close to realising the concept of the "completed individual" inside and outside of time and reality. This conceit of a dialectically established "absolute identity" that implies the notion of "absolute self-comprehension" is obviously part of the German romantic heritage - the transcendental Idealism of Fichte and Schelling - , a notion that might well have been taken on board by the characterologist Otto Weininger, whose interpretation was later adapted by Stein.25 So the meeting of G. Stein with Alice B. Toklas in Paris could simply be reduced to the structure of its biographical factuality: "Alice Toklas came to live, to type, to correct the proof of Three Lives, which Gertrude Stein was printing at her own expense."26 But this somewhat oversimplified view would better serve as a metaphor for the deeper import of the relationship between the two texts. Stein's The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas revises and corrects the tripartite "typology" of female existence of Three Lives by filling the vacant space of the ideal type that is evoked by its inverse reading and its implied question: What and where is the other end, the corresponding point of the bridge to that all-American "Bridgepoint" that is left behind?

Alice B. Toklas answers the question of the reader in completing a typological quest for personal and cultural identity that begins with gentle German Lena being "brought from Germany to Bridgepoint" (Three Lives, 239), moves to the all-American tragic "blue" Melanctha and ends with the "careless" Mathilda leaving the well-adjusted and yet unhappy German Anna and Bridgepoint behind, and reaches its goal in G. Stein meeting A. B. Toklas in Paris in 1907 (A. B. Toklas, 5). This mental pilgrimage at the same time describes the existential topology of G. Stein's biography. Or, to use one of G. Stein's own major terms, Three Lives and A. B. Toklas form the four stages of the "geographical history"27 of her female individuation as literary artist.

In chapter 4 of the Autobiography, which deals with Gertrude Stein's period of study at Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1897, we find an inconspicuous clue not only to the genesis but also to the mental evolution of Gertrude Stein's "Four Lives":

After having passed her examinations she settled down in Baltimore and went to the medical school. She had a servant named Lena and it is her story Gertrude Stein afterwards wrote as the first story28 of the Three Lives. (81)

In G. Stein's eventual arrangemant of the stories of Three Lives she concealed the quest and the journey of her consciousness towards her own identity as a completed individual, which she seemed to have found in the Paris of The Autobiography of A. B. Toklas.

Her literary pilgrimage replaces the masculine and adamic typology by reversing the West-East topology of the American quest of national individuation: Virgin Land. The American West as Symbol and Myth.29 Differring "from most of her contemporaries by being female, Jewish, lesbian, and well-educated," G. Stein seemed to have realised consistently what D. H. Lawrence postulates in his critical analysis of the "spirit of place," the overall setting of the basically masculine classic American literature from Franklin to W. Whitman:

Obeying from within. Men are free when they belong to a living, organic, believing community, acting in fulfilling some unfulfilled [...] purpose. Not when they are escaping to some wild west. The most unfree souls go west, and shout for freedom. [...] The shout is a rattling of chains, always was.
Men are not free when they are doing just what they like. [...] Men are only free when they are doing what their deepest self likes.30

By "doing what her deepest self liked," by having run counter to the male's escape to the wild west, the American male-myth convention of shouting for freedom, G. Stein obviously found her utopian ideal as a woman and as an artist in the transatlantic "bridgepoint": Paris, Rue de Fleurus No. 27. She had arrived, at least preliminarily.

That in the end one really cannot escape the "geographical history" of one's individual mind just by "taking a ship" in order to swim against the mainstream of the collective Pilgrim's Progress was to become an unavoidable insight31 along the ongoing mental and artistic quest of G. Stein. But that is a different story, if only the keeping of the inside open for the outside and vice versa should preserve for her the - romantic - chance of free escape between the systems and save her from the radical scepticism of post-modernism.32


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1 Emory Elliot (ed.), The Columbia Literary History of The United States (1988), 879.

2 Cf. Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land. The American West as Symbol and Myth (1950).

3 N. Hawthorne's historical tale "Main-street" (1849) describes the patriarchal foundation of the Massachusetts Bay colony as myth of a matrimonial paradise lost; cf. Helmut Schwarztrauber, Fiktion der Fiktion: Begründung und Bewahrung des Erzählens durch theoretische Selbstreflexion im Werk N. Hawthornes und E. A. Poes (2000), 205-17; see also Richard W. B. Lewis, The American Adam: Innocence, Tragedy and Tradition in the 19th Century (1955).

4 Gertrude Stein, Three Lives (1909) (New York: Vintage-Random House, 1936); quotations will be taken from this text.

5 Anonymous, "[Three Lives]" (1910), Critical Essays on Gertrude Stein, ed. Michael J. Hoffman (1986), 27; cf. also Anonymous, "Fiction but Not Novels" (1909), Critical Essays on Gertrude Stein, ed. M. J. Hoffman (1986), 26.

6 Donald Sutherland, Gertrude Stein (1951), 44. Richard Bridgman discusses Three Lives exclusively by way of "Melanctha" in his "Things as they Are and Three Lives" (1966), Modern Critical Views: Gertrude Stein, ed. H. Bloom (1986), esp. 107-12.

7 Michael J. Hoffman, The Development of Abstractionism in the Writings of Gertrude Stein (1965), 74.

8 Edmund Wilson, "Gertrude Stein" (1931), Critical Essays, ed. Hoffman (1986), 59.

9 See D. Sutherland (1951), 41; William C. Williams, "The Work of Gertrude Stein" (1954), Critical Essays, ed. Hoffman (1986), 57. M. J. Hoffman, Gertrude Stein (1976), 32.

10 M. J. Hoffman, The Development of Abstractionism in the Writings of Gertrude Stein (1965), 74. Consequently, post-structuralist M. DeKoven sees Melanctha "as a significant step away from writing which invites thematic synthesis," A Different Language: Gertrude Stein's Experimental Writing (1983), 42; and J. Walker grounds Stein's Modernism on the radical shift of style between "especially the story 'Melanctha'" of Three Lives to "Tender Buttons, the iconoclastic text in which 'real is only, only excreate, only excreate a no since' (TB, 496)"; The Making of a Modernist: Gertrude Stein, from Three Lives to Tender Buttons (1984), xi].

11 For Marianne DeKoven Gertrude Stein's "experimental writing" is defined by "her work after Three Lives (1906) and before The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1932);" A Different Language: Gertrude Stein's Experimental Writing (1983), xiii.

12 Lisa Ruddick, "A Rosy Charm: Gertrude Stein and the Repressed Feminine" (1986), Critical Essays, ed. Hoffman (1986), 225-40. In her feminist book "about the self-creation of Gertrude Stein," in which she elaborates the thesis of her essay, L. Ruddick deals exclusively with "'Melanctha,' the Making of Americans, G. M. P., and Tender Buttons" in: Reading Gertrude Stein: Body, Text, Gnosis (1990), 1 and 12-54. Similarly Harriet S. Chessman discusses lesbian sexuality within the context of Three Lives referring to "Melanctha" only: cf. "Gertrude Stein: 1974-1946," Modern American Women Writers, ed. E. Showalter et. al. (1993), esp. 338ff. Franziska Gygax, in "dealing with a writer like Gertrude Stein, whose lesbian sexuality is part of her identity," consequently "explores the specific psychosexual structures of her texts in relation to her specific sexuality" and neglects Three Lives altogether; cf. Gender and Genre in Gertrude Stein (1998), 4.

13 See also Robert E. Rogers, "Tender Buttons, Curious Experiment of Gertrude Stein in Literary Anarchy" (1914), Critical Essays, ed. Hoffman (1986), 31-33; B. F. Skinner, "Has Gertrude Stein a Secret?" (1934), Critical Essays, ed. Hoffman (1986), 64-71. Neil Schmitz, "Gertrude Stein as Post-Modernist: The Rhetoric of Tender Buttons" (1974), Critical Essays, ed. Hoffman (1986), 117-30; William H. Gass, "Gertrude Stein and the Geography of the Sentence: 'Tender Buttons'" (1976), Modern Critical Views: Gertrude Stein, ed. H. Bloom (1986), 145-163. With their antagonistic revision of the problematic analogy concept of "abstractionism" derived from the cubism of fine arts, structuralist W. Steiner devaluates and post-structuralist M. DeKoven defends Steins experimental writing: cf. Steiner, "The Steinian Portrait" (1975), Critical Essays, ed. Hoffman (1986), 130-39, and her elaborate Exact Resemblance to Exact Resemblance: The Literary Portraiture of Gertrude Stein (1978); also M. DeKoven: "Gertrude Stein and Modern Painting: Beyond Literary Criticism" (1981), Critical Essays, ed. Hoffman (1986), 171-83.

14 The essay is a revised version of a lecture that was given by the author as "Probevorlesung zum Habilitationsverfahren" on Nov. 11th, 1997.

15 There are at least ten "Bridgeports" (AL, AZ, CA, CT, FL, IL, NJ, PA, TX, VA), but there doesn't seem to be any "Bridgepoint" in the US.

16 W. H. Gass, in his comment on Stein's first story Things as They Are (1903), uses the term "protective language" for a "way of thinking without the risk of feeling," "protective speech" that "must cut off meanings, not take them on. It must find contexts that will limit the functions of its words to that of naming. Gertrude Stein set about discovering such contexts;" "G. Stein: Her Escape from Protective Language," Critical Essays, ed. Hoffman (1986), 115 f.

17 Cf. Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary (1989), 161.

18 That G. Stein was thinking in "fundamental types" rather than of changeable characters has already been suggested by E. Wilson; "Gertrude Stein," Critical Essays, ed. Hoffman (1986), 59; and that the notion of character as "substantive structure," that made G. Stein draw "charts of the human types she described in The Making of Americans," consistently led to Stein's style of reassertive repetition" has been pointed out by D. Sutherland, "The Elements" (1951), Critical Essays, ed. Hoffman (1986), 95. G. Stein obviously got acquainted with the idea of a typological character psychology based on "female roles" through Otto Weininger's influential work Sex and Character (1906); cf. Leon Katz, "Weininger and The Making of Americans" (1978), Critical Essays, ed. Hoffman (1986), 139-49.

19 Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933) (New York: Vintage-Random House, 1990); quotations will be taken from this text.

20 This seems to be a "key" to the "anecdotal and gossipy chitchat" Autobiography [B. L. Reid, Art by Substraction (1958), 186] that James E. Bresslin tries to find for readers "who read it looking for the key to Stein's private psychology." Rather than to provide "an intense and creative struggle with the conventions of autobiography" ["Gertrude Stein and the Problem of Autobiography," Critical Essays, ed. Hoffman (1986), 149], G. Stein by setting up her own logic of authorship simply doesn't seem to care for genre conventions, still neclecting the general expectation of readers and critics as late as the 1980s about a principal genre division between (factual) "autobiography" and (imaginary) "fiction" that is based on the implicit "pact" ("pacte autobiographique") between the author and the reader about the factual identity of author, narrator and narratee, also validating the autobiography as a mode of confession [cf. Philippe Lejeune, "Der autobiographische Pakt" (1973), Die Autobiographie, ed. G. Niggl (1989), 214-57; Lejeune, On Autobiography, ed. P. Eakin (1989); also E.W. Bruss, Autobiographical Acts: The Changing Situation of a Literary Genre (1976)]. Neil Schmitz, who discusses Stein's autobiography as the story of self-denial of the narrating "I", says quite adequately: "The best a sophisticated and earnest autobiography can do is to be as true as Rousseau's Confessions. If it is sophisticated, and not sincere, then it is The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas" ["Portrait, Patriarchy, Mythos: The Revenge of Gertrude Stein", Gertrude Stein Advanced: An Anthology of Criticism, ed. R. Kostelanetz (1990), 170]. F. Gygax, who is the first to systematically analyse Stein's "deconstructive approach to genre" in her Gender and Genre in Gertrude Stein (1998), also comments on "the 'subversive intent'" of Stein's "double-voiced autobiography" [Gender and Genre, 6, 65-69].

21 Pierre Daix, Picasso: Der Mensch und sein Werk (Paris, Gütersloh, etc., no year), 63.

22 Cf. C. Van Vechten's personal memories of Stein's "massive physique" in "How to Read G. Stein" (1914), Critical Essays, ed. Hoffman (1986), 34; s. also Linda Simon, The Biography of Alice B. Toklas (1977), 38.

23 In that sense the German edition of Diana Souhami's biography Gertrude and Alice (1991) seems to be consistent by adding the subtitle to the original: Gertrude Stein und Alice B. Toklas: Zwei Leben - eine Biography (1994).

24 Gertrude Stein in her own comment on writing the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas [Look at Me Now and Here I Am: Writings and Lectures by Gertrude Stein, ed. P. Meyerowitz (1990), 123]. Georg Schiller discusses Stein's autobiographic construction of personal identities on the principle of symbolic manifestation of the mind (the inside) within the material outside [cf. Symbolische Erfahrung und Sprache im Werk von Gertrude Stein (1995), 73ff.].

25 Weininger's typological concept of the "completed individual" envisions "the highest 'type' of human being - the only true individuality - in terms of achieving the promise of immortality by escaping from the contingencies of time" [Katz, "Weininger," Critical Essays, ed. Hoffman (1986), 146].

26 W. H. Gass, "Introduction" to: G. Stein, The Geographical History of America or The Relation of Human Nature to the Human Mind (1973), 20.

27 G. Stein's The Geographical History of America or The Relation of Human Nature to the Human Mind (1936) is based on her idea of correspondence between her native land and the mind. From this idea she derives the metaphor of the "landscape" and applies it to a concept of literary "landscape plays." Jane Bowers adequately describes Gertrude Stein's Four Saints in Three Acts (1927) as "a representation of the mind of Gertrude Stein, and Gertrude Stein sees to it that the representation is brought into the theater. In that sense, this opera is a landscape, a rendering of the mind's geography" ["The Writer in the Theater: Gertrude Stein's Four Saints in Three Acts," Critical Essays, ed. Hoffman (1986), 222].

28 Boldface mine.

29 Cf. H. N. Smith, Virgin Land. The American West as Symbol and Myth (1950).

30 D.H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature (3rd ed., 1966), 6.

31 W.C. Williams said as early as 1954, referring to Useful Knowledge (1928): "Stein's pages have become like the United States viewed from an airplane - the same senseless repetition, the endless multiplications of toneless words, with these she had to work. No use for Stein to fly to Paris and forget it. The thing, the United States [...] is there in the artist's mind and cannot be escaped by taking a ship. She must resolve it if she is to be. That must be the artist's articulation with existence" [Williams, "The Work of Gertrude Stein" (1954), Critical Essays, ed. Hoffman (1986), 57/58].

32 G. Schiller sees in the fact that the "Steinian cosmos" is not reduced to the cosmos of written language, which in denying the outside makes the subject an exclusive function of the linguistic system, the basic "difference to Derrida's 'différance'" ["Abschlußbemerkung als Aufbruchsbewegung: Gertrude Stein in ihrer Differenz zu Derridas 'différance'," Symbolische Erfahrung und Sprache im Werk von Gertrude Stein (1995), 203-06].