The first part is dedicated to a German woman named Anna Federner, whose life goal is to help others. She works as a servant, but it doesn’t fully satisfy her need to take care. She helps stray cats and dogs, works harder than the majority of other servants, adores people she works for – although she doesn’t miss a chance to scold them – and is always ready to give her friends whatever they need. In spite of the fact that Anna is extremely fond of her friends, she is not very affectionate towards her family. Anna’s altruism is immeasurable. All her savings are given away and her friends often use it for their advantage. In the end of her life, she starts running a boarding house, but she charges her roomer so little that she can hardly make the ends meet. Anna works herself to death, for she stops having even short periods of rest. Her old friend, Mrs. Drehten, informs Miss Mathilda, the woman Anna used to work for, about her old servant’s death.
The second story is about a young black-skinned woman, whose name is Melanctha. In spite of the fact that she is well-educated and breathtakingly beautiful, she fails to find happiness and build a life she used to dream about. Her main problem is depression. Melanctcha has been dealing with it since childhood. She used to hate her black-skinned father and mixed-race mother for unknown reasons and never missed a chance to start a quarrel. However, she doesn’t leave her mother in need and takes care of her when the latter falls ill. The thoughts about suicide doesn’t leave her mind while periods of blue mood become longer and longer with time. Her friend’s betrayal causes unrepairable damage to the woman’s physical and mental health. Depression and tuberculosis put an end to her life.
The last story reveals a short and not particularly happy life of a young named Lena. Just like Anna, the girl is of German origin and works as a servant. Later on, she meets Herman and becomes his wife. Unfortunately for her, their marriage doesn’t look like a dream and – as the result – she becomes even more passive and silent. Lena manages to bring three children into the world, but the fourth time is less successful. Both Lena and a child die. However, the news about Lena’s death doesn’t upset Herman at all. He has three wonderful kids and is absolutely content with it, for he has never been in love with her deep enough to grieve.
This book is a reminder that self-cognition is one of the most important things of our live. If the main characters of the it knew what they themselves and knew what they wanted, they would definitely have happier lives and less disappointments. Everything has its end and our main task is to learn how to keep sanity in this whirlwind of emotions.