Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out

final prose


  • pg 1
									1. INTRODUCTION

       Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets was first published at his own expense

in 1893. Literary critic William Dean Howells was so impressed with the novel that he helped

get it published by D. Appleton and Company in 1896. Maggie came to be regarded as one of

Crane’s finest and most eloquent statements on environmental determinism.

       The story centers on Maggie Johnson, a pretty young woman who struggles to survive

the brutal environment of the Bowery, a New York City slum, at the end of the nineteenth

century. Abused by an alcoholic mother and victimized by the overwhelming poverty of the

slums, Maggie falls in love with a charming bartender, who, she tells herself, will help her

escape her harsh life. Maggie’s relationship with Pete compounds her suffering, however,

when her family and her neighbors condemn her. Eventually abandoned by her lover, as well

as her family, Maggie is forced to make a living on the cruel city streets. Crane’s unblinking

depiction of the devastating environmental forces that ultimately destroy this young, hopeful

woman was celebrated as one of the most important documents of American Naturalism.


A. Author's Biography
       Stephen Crane (1871-1900), an American fiction writer and poet, was also a

newspaper reporter. His novel "The Red Badge of Courage" stands high among the world's

books depicting warfare.

       After the Civil War, William Dean Howells, Henry James, and others established

realism as the standard mode of American fiction. In the 1890s younger writers tried to

enlarge the territory of realism with impressionist, symbolist, and even new romantic

approaches. Of these pioneers, Stephen Crane was the most influential.

       Crane was born on Nov. 1, 1871, the fourteenth and last child of Mary Helen Crane

and the Reverend Doctor Jonathan Townley Crane, presiding elder of the Newark, N.J.,

district of the Methodist Church. A frail child, Stephen moved with his family from one

parsonage to another during his first 8 years. In 1880, with the death of his father, his mother

moved her family to Asbury Park, N.J. Stephen was exposed early to writing as a career: his

mother wrote on religious topics and lectured for the Women's Christian Temperance Union,

and his brother Townley worked as a newspaper reporter.

       In 1888 Crane entered military school, where he made an impressive record on the

drill field and the baseball diamond but not in the classroom. Without graduating he went to

Lafayette College, then to Syracuse University. He flunked out, but whatever his academic

record, his time had not been wasted: in his fraternity house Crane, aged 20, had written the

first draft of Maggie: A Girl of the Streets. Returning to Asbury Park as a reporter under his

brother for the New York Tribune, Crane attended Hamlin Garland's lectures on the realistic

writers. Garland was interested in the young writer, read his manuscripts, and guided his

       In 1891 Crane's mother died. Crane spent much of the next year in Sullivan County,

N.Y., where another brother practiced law. Five "Sullivan County Sketches" were published

in the Tribune and Cosmopolitan (his first magazine appearance). He went frequently to New

York City, haunting the Bowery in search of experience and literary material. When he

returned to Asbury Park, he lost his job on the Tribune (and his brother's too) by writing an

accurate description of a labor parade that undermined his Republican publisher's standing in

an election campaign. This year also brought unhappy endings to two romances.

Career as Novelist

       In autumn 1892 Crane moved to New York City. By spring he submitted a second

version of Maggie to a family friend, Richard Gilder, editor of the Century. Gilder tried to

explain his rejection of the manuscript, but Crane interrupted bluntly, "You mean that the

story's too honest"" Honest the story is, and blunt and brutal. It shows Maggie as a simple,

ignorant girl bullied by her drunken mother, delivered to a seducer by her brother, driven by

the seducer into prostitution and, finally, to suicide. In approach the novel is akin to the

"veritism" of Garland and the realism of Howells, but it differs stylistically in its ironic tone,

striking imagery (especially color imagery), and its compression. "Impressionism" is the term

often applied to the very personal style Crane was developing. Convinced that no publisher

would dare touch his "shocking" novel, Crane printed it at his own expense, using the

pseudonym Johnston Smith. The book went unnoticed and unpurchased, except for two

copies. Garland, however, admired it and called it to the attention of Howells, then America's

most influential man of letters, who recognized Crane's achievement and tried unsuccessfully

to get the novel reissued.

       By summer 1893 Crane was well into what was to be a Civil War novel. As research

he read Century magazine's series "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War" and, it is believed,
traveled in Virginia to interview Confederate veterans. What he found missing from the

history books was the actual sensation any single individual experiences in battle; this is what

The Red Badge of Courage conveys. Just as Maggie represents every girl victimized by a

slum environment, so Henry Fleming represents every recruit who reels through the noise and

glare of war. Neither character had a name in Crane's first drafts: they are "every woman,"

"every man," buffeted by forces they neither control nor understand. Though there were

delays--painful ones for the penniless author--this book was destined for early success. A

shortened version was serialized in the Philadelphia Press and hundreds of other newspapers

in 1894. The instant critical and popular enthusiasm spread to England when the complete

book was published the following year. A revised version of Maggie was issued along with

an earlier novel about slum life, George's Mother, in 1896. The syndicate that had arranged

newspaper publication of Red Badge of Courage sent Crane to the West and Mexico to

sketch whatever struck his fancy.

Poet and Journalist

       Crane's first book of poems, The Black Riders, was on the press before his departure.

"A condensed Whitman," the Nation aptly called him. His "lines," as he called his poems, are

terse, natural, and forceful; ironic and unsentimental. Their language is in the best sense

journalistic, just as Crane's reportage had been from the beginning poetic.

       The excursion west and to Mexico produced sensitive sketches and materials for a

number of Crane's finest stories. Back in New York, he published newspaper articles critical

of the city's corrupt police. The police made New York uncomfortable for Crane, so he

departed for Cuba to report the anti-Spanish insurrection there. Enroute he stopped in

Jacksonville, Fla., where he met Cora Stewart, a handsome New England woman in her late

20s, separated from her husband, the son of a British baronet. She was the owner of the Hotel
de Dream, an elegant boardinghouse-cum nightclub-cum brothel and gave it all up to become

(quite without clerical or legal formalities) "Mrs. Stephen Crane."

       In spite of this "marriage," Crane left for Cuba aboard a small steamer. It sank on its

first day out. Crane's heroic role in the disaster--he barely escaped with the captain and two

other men--evoked his best short story, "The Open Boat."

War Correspondent

       For the Hearst newspapers Crane covered the war between Greece and Turkey. Crane,

it appears, wanted to see if war was really as he had depicted it in Red Badge of Courage: it

was. But the trip yielded mediocre war reportage and a bad novel, Active Service (1899).

Cora had followed Crane to Greece; they next went to England, where Crane finished his

powerful novella The Monster and three of his finest short stories, "The Bride Comes to

Yellow Sky," "Death and the Child," and "The Blue Hotel."

       The Spanish-American War in 1898 provided new employment. Crane sent

distinguished reports to the New York World. He was with Cora in England when his second

volume of poems, War Is Kind, appeared in 1899. Sick and aware of nearing death, he wrote

furiously. That spring Cora took him to the Continent, where he died on June 5, 1900, in

Badenweiler, Germany, of tuberculosis. His haunting tales of childhood, Whilomville Stories,

and Cuban tales, Wounds in the Rain appeared later that year.

B. Summary

       As the novel opens, Jimmie, a young boy, is leading a street fight against a troop of

youngsters from another part of New York City's impoverished Bowery neighborhood.

Jimmie is rescued by Pete, a teenager who seems to be a casual acquaintance of his. They
encounter Jimmie's offhandedly brutal father, who brings Jimmie home, where we are

introduced to his timid older sister Maggie and little brother Tommie, and to Mary, the

family's drunken, vicious matriarch. The evening that follows seems typical: the father goes

to bars to drink himself into oblivion while the mother stays home and rages until she, too,

drops off into a drunken stupor. The children huddle in a corner, terrified.

       As time passes, both the father and Tommie die. Jimmie hardens into a sneering,

aggressive, cynical youth. He gets a job as a teamster. Maggie, by contrast, seems somehow

immune to the corrupting influence of abject poverty; underneath the grime, she is physically

beautiful and, even more surprising, both hopeful and naïve. When Pete--now a bartender--

makes his return to the scene, he entrances Maggie with his bravado and show of bourgeois

trappings. Pete senses easy prey, and they begin dating; she is taken--and taken in--by his

relative worldliness and his ostentatious displays of confidence. She sees in him the promise

of wealth and culture, an escape from the misery of her childhood.

       There comes a night when the drunk and combative Mary accuses Maggie of going

"to deh devil" and disgracing the family; Maggie runs into Pete's arms, and we are given to

understand that the two are, indeed, sleeping together. Jimmie is furious that Pete has

"ruined" his sister, and he gets very drunk with a friend and gets into a brawl with Pete. After

this, Maggie leaves home and goes to live with Pete. Jimmie and Mary affect sorrow and

bewilderment at Maggie's fall from grace, and her behavior becomes a neighborhood scandal.

A scant few weeks after Maggie leaves home, she is in a bar with Pete when they meet

Nellie, a scheming woman with a veneer of sophistication who has no trouble convincing

Pete to leave Maggie. Abandoned, Maggie tries to return home, but her family rejects her.

       The linear narrative now ceases, and we are given a series of scenes, arranged in

chronological order but separated by passages of time. There is an interlude in which we see
that Jimmie, who acts horrified at Maggie's actions, has in fact himself seduced and then

abandoned at least one girl. In another brief scene, Maggie visits Pete at work, and he, too,

refuses to acknowledge her legitimate claims on him. Months later, we are shown a

prostitute--presumably Maggie, but unnamed--walking the streets of New York, pathetic and

rejected, bound for trouble. There is a scene with Pete in a bar, badly drunk and surrounded

by women; he collapses on the floor and, in his turn, is abandoned by the scornful and

manipulative Nellie. Finally, the novel ends with Jimmie giving Mary the news that Maggie's

dead body has been found. Mary stages a scene of melodramatic mourning for her ruined

child, which ends with her deeply hypocritical and bitterly ironic concession: "I'll fergive


C. Analysis

        The writer would like to analyze about the theme of this story. Before we discuss

about the theme of the story, we have to know about the definition of theme.

        According to the Oxford English Dictionary, theme in literature is "the subject of a

piece of writing."

        According to Dean Koontz " Theme is a statement, or series of related observations,

about some aspect of the human condition, interpreted from the unique viewpoint of the


        According to Lawrence Durrell "The theme of art is the theme of life itself."

Theme Analysis of The Story
       The writer would like to take "The violence and moral Hypocrisy" as the theme for

the story of Maggie a girl of the street.

       Much of this novel's power comes from the deft manner with which Crane combines

these themes into a critical, irony-driven thrust at his culture. In the first three chapters alone,

Jimmie fights a rival gang, a member of his own gang and strikes his sister. His father kicks

his son and fights with his wife. Maggie drags the suffering Tommie down the street to the

apartment where she is in turn beaten by her mother who also does violence to her husband

and destroys the furniture.

       But in Maggie Crane's narrative probes deeper than a strictly naturalistic reading

would warrant. Maggie dies not because she is surrounded by violence but because her

family and the society of the Bowery consider her unworthy of inclusion except as a whore.

Mary, Jimmie and Pete rationalize and accept Maggie's ruin by standards they pretend to

uphold but fail to achieve themselves.

       Mary is a drunkard and a brawler - she rains violence upon the heads of her children

and she smashes their belongings. Yet she judges Maggie to be worthy of damnation for what

society believes to be her compromised virtue. Like Mary, Pete also believes that he's done

nothing wrong by the girl. Rather, he believes that Maggie's family is attempting to ruin his

reputation by raising "such a smoke" about nothing at all dishonorable.

       He dismisses himself from responsibility for her downfall without allowing himself to

consider his somewhat less than honorable motives in pursuing the girl and his callus

abandonment of her once he had achieved his aims. Of the three, Jimmie comes closest to

recognizing the various factors that contributed to her downfall. He briefly considers the idea
that Maggie might "have been more firmly good had she better known why" and reflects that

the girls he has pursued might also have brothers but fails to draw the parallel to his sister.

       Jimmie is a product of his environment and he capitulates entirely to the social codes

of the Bowery by publicly denouncing his sister and fighting Pete for the honor of the family.

When he flees the fight he does so believing that he has exacted the necessary revenge and

his honor is intact. He comes to this conclusion without regard to the relative valor of

abandoning        his       friend       to      the       police       in      the       process.


To top