The theme of Order in ‘The Good Anna’

While reading Stein’s piece, I kept a red pen close to my paper to mark up the text, and kept finding myself writing down the word ‘order’. After finishing the short story, I realize that the presence of ‘order’ had more than one dimension. Stein uses a certain order to introduce her plot line and her characters; she begins by giving life to Anna and Miss Mathilda’s relationship, and only then retraces the past employers and the different steps that Anna to her beloved Mathilda. This shifting between time periods reminds me slightly of the migrant experience, moving temporarily from place to place, and I wonder if Stein used this literary technique consciously to mimic the life of her characters. Furthermore, Stein characterizes Anna in a way that focuses on Anna’s need for cleanliness, morality, and control over every situation. In countless different scenes, Anna is portrayed as taking leadership of the household, taking joy in providing for others, scolding bad behavior, and establishing order in an otherwise un-orderly environment. For example, one of the first introduction to Anna’s personality reads, “Anna has always a firm old world sense of what was the right way for a girl to do… girl was a girl and should act always like a girl, both as to giving all respect and as to what she had to eat” (15). When Anna feels as if she had acted poorly or when she herself in a precarious situation, Anna quickly takes measures to regain this order, and doesn’t feel content until she has done so. For example, when Anna visits the medium for advice, she soon after feels the guilt for acting against the Church and “Anna’s temper grew irritable and her ways uncertain and distraught. Everybody suffered and her glasses broke” (40). Anna’s need for order speaks to a larger message about the immigrant experience; though immigrants lacked complete control over their social, economic, and political status, perhaps they felt the need to assert their control in any other situation they could personally shape.