Three Lives pp 329-359 | Cite as

Aesthetic Questions: Realism and the Modern

  • Gertrude Stein
Part of the Bedford Cultural Editions book series (BCE)


Literary historians cannot agree on the parameters of either realism or naturalism, but they do trace much of the tendency toward those modes in American letters back to European models. As Gustave Flaubert notes in his 1874 letter to the controversial Émile Zola, the latter’s writing achieved a “ferocity of passion” usually not found in elite literature (see pp. 332–34). In particular, Flaubert likes the woman character, whose “hysteric state and … final avowal are marvellous” (see p. 333). Clearly, Zola has conceived an innovative kind of novel, and Flaubert is envious. Using one of Flaubert’s short stories as a model, thirty years later, Gertrude Stein attempts to achieve the same kind of freshness with Three Lives.


Happy Ending Black Folk Woman Character Native American Culture Negro People 
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© Bedford/St. Martin’s 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gertrude Stein

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