Three Lives

Illusory Conceptions of Control in The Good Anna

As Gertrude Stein asserts in her lecture entitled “Composition as Explanation,” “Beauty is beauty even when it is irritating and stimulating not only when it is accepted and classic.” This quotation, especially the portion referring to the element of irritation present in much of Stein’s work, applies directly to her novel Three Lives. Diverging from a plot centered upon narrative, the author’s concentration upon each and every minute detail can result in the reader’s exhaustion and frustration. This reaction could be elicited throughout one of the stories included in the novel The Good Anna. Although the prevalence of detail in some seemingly trivial instances and the omission of it in others may seem illogically repetitive upon first reading, it is later established that these details instead interact to characterize the main character, Anna. Contrary to a normative literary style, Stein routinely grants lesser importance to events that are commonly considered central to one’s life while simultaneously emphasizing those considered ordinary. This tendency toward an overabundance of detail to certain life events and ignorance to others throughout the superficially simple and sterile structure of The Good Anna exemplifies the...

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