Maggie: A Girl Of The Streets By Setephen Crane

1577 words - 6 pages

Stephen Crane’s novella, “Maggie: A Girl of the Streets” deals with many difficult concepts and situations. However, the most prevalent seems to be the people that find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of violence. Although some claim that a literary label cannot possibly contain Crane’s work, his ideas certainly have much in common with other naturalistic writers of his time. He portrays poor Irish immigrants, the dregs of humanity, struggling for survival during the Industrial Revolution. Even while relating terrible events, Crane remains detached in the typical naturalistic style, seeming to view the world as a broad social experiment. As the story opens, we are instantly drawn into a heart-wrenching arena where people behave like animals, tearing each other apart if it will help them to reach the zenith of the food chain. Yet in this cycle of violence, Crane definitively incriminates the environment over every other malevolent influence acting upon his victims; using a theme of violence, a tone lacking in emotion, rich imagery, and strong personification of the environment, Crane fashions a wild Darwinian view of society that leaves all of the blame resting on a person’s surroundings rather than his choices.
Crane wastes no time in relating savagery that, for some, is difficult to imagine. A pack of children engage in violence that even for a group of men in a bar today would be considered excessive. Painted in vivid detail by Crane’s verbal brush, one of the main characters – Jimmie – is pictured with “His infantile countenance…livid with fury” (946). This creates a deep sense of violation early on in readers as mere babes hurl fists and insults at an astonishing rate. Such a raw description of bloody faces and crass language forces the reader to ask a question: what are these children experiencing at home? Crane does not leave his readers guessing for long; in fact, within a few sentences of this desperate battle, Jimmie’s father enters the scene and proves himself to be the model for his son’s brutish habits. After receiving a kick from his parent, Jimmie then passes on this abuse to the younger children, Maggie and Tommie. These miserable siblings, in fact every individual growing up in the God-forsaken Bowery, have only verbal and physical missiles to anticipate when they go home. Intended to be the moral guides for their offspring, the adults do not even seem to know how to interact with each other in a healthy way, screaming and tossing furniture from the moment they occupy the same space. Crane is inching the cycle back even further, forcing the readers to question how these older characters were treated in their formative years. As boys and girls become men and women, the reader is given little more to anticipate than more misery, more violence, and more desperate struggles; after all, it is the only thing they have ever known. When Jimmie’s father dies leaving his son to take care of the family, Jimmie steps directly into those...

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