Overall,in Stephen Cranes novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, readers areshown the character development of Maggie and how she ultimately came to such asad end. The tragic plot form of the novel unfolded the events that lead to allof the characters decisions and motives. As readers, one is shown how Maggie’smotives and how her surrounding has impacted her with not leaving any room fordesires. While leaning on her family and Pete for support, Maggie isdisregarded.
The characters unwillingness to help Maggie and hear her out drivesher into the life of a prostitute. The mode of realism created by the authorpermits his readers to learn a valuable lesson. The significance of the novelis that individuals are raised in harsh environments that hinder them fromgrowing, learning, and developing what is needed to survive and flourish inlife.
Individuals want to feel that they are important and do not go unnoticed.We must come to realize that poverty is not glamorous but something thatindividuals experience daily. It does not hurt for one to lend a helping handor take a step back to reflect on how their actions may have impacted someoneelse’s. In the novel, readers a rooting for Maggie and want her to prosper, butwe can also see how quickly society categorizes prostitution. Maggie: A Girlof the Streets is a thought-provoking novel as it offers the fictionalattempt to give the effect of an unpolished American society.Fromthe relationship between the environment and the characters, Crane also offerssocial commentary to his readers. Towards the ending of the novel, we see how manyindividuals often stray away from Maggie as she approaches them for assistanceand support.
One character who avoids Maggie in the novel is a clergyman. Thetext states, “But as the girl timidly accosted him, he gave a convulsivemovement and saved his respectability by a vigorous side-step” (Crane 87). Thisstatement displays irony that is used to offer social commentary. Morally,clergymen are members of the Christian church who are there to withholdleadership and lend a helping hand. Instead, in the novel, we see that theclergyman does not want to be seen communicating with Maggie in fear of losing hisreputation and respectability being that she has turned to prostitution.
Theauthor added this incident to showcase how often individuals seek assistance,but they do not receive it because the egocentric behavior of others overpowers.Crane comments on the clergyman’s actions which leads to the question, “If aclergyman is turning his back on someone in need then how Christian are we?” Fromlooking at Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, individuals can take away thatone’s identification with a religious group does not have great significance ifone is not following the paths that are given. This is also shown in the novelrelating to Mary. The character is given the name Mary which makes reference tothe mother of Jesus, but when looking at the character one can ask “how much forgiveness,mercy, and charity does the mother have?”Onthe contrary, from Maggie’s sad ending readers can view how Maggie: A Girlof the Streets is a novel about larger ideas. The relationship between theenvironment and the characters is a prominent idea that is discussed in thenovel. In the novel, it is shown that the environment that the characters livein is survival of the fittest. The characters are born into an environment thatgreatly impacts their character and whether or not they are adapted enough tothrive and survive. When looking at the character Jimmy, readers view how the crowdedpoverty-environment impacted his pugnacious behavior.
In the opening chapter,the text states, “The little boys ran to and fro, dodging, hurling stones andswearing in barbaric trebles” (Crane 37). It is displayed that violenceestablishes order in this battlefield and Jimmy fought to earn his spot at thetop. The environment shaped his toughness, as he accepted his fate knowing thathe needed a hard shell to survive. When looking at Maggie, readers can see howthe environment impacted her desire for more.
It is stated that “None of thedirt of Rum Alley seemed to be in her veins” (Crane 49). In comparison to herpeers, Maggie was much different and good-natured. Maggie holds on to hopethroughout the novel. but unfortunately, Maggie is seen as unsuited in this battlefield.Stephen Crane makes it conspicuous that based off of a character’s development theenvironment they may be too overwhelming. If one is not fit for the environmentthat they were in, they will not survive.
The novel is filled with images ofrealism that showcases how the tenements leave individuals with little hope andescape. Moreover,after being seduced by Jimmie and left to fend for her own, Maggie then turnsto her brother. Readers witness Jimmie as a violent character who isemotionally detached which permits him to gain responsibility for Maggie’sdeath.
Readers are shown reoccurring scenes where Jimmie has deliberated onwhether he should find Maggie and bring her home. The character states, “An’maybe it ‘ud be better if I- well, I t’ink I kin look ‘er up an’- maybe it ‘dbe better if I fetched her home an-” (Crane 75). It is evident that Jimmie isthinking about his disapproval. He understands that Maggie was never properlytaught and it would have been acceptable to condemn her if she had known better.
Due to the character’s toughness, he disregards these thoughts and begins topublicly damn his sister. Jimmie fails to see his hypocritical behavior as hehas impregnated two women and has disregarded his role as a father. When Maggiereturns home in hopes of being accepted she encounters her mother’s wrath andreaches out to her brother. The readers can hear the call for need in Maggie’svoice as the text states, “The girl seemed to awaken. “Jimmie-” (Crane 83).Longing for her brother’s support Maggie is rejected as Jimmie backs away fromher. Readers are shown, in the beginning of the text, how Maggie viewed herbrother as someone to lean on in time of need as the text states, “The thin,white face of his sister looked at him from the door-way of the other room. Shecrept to him across the floor” (Crane 45).
It is evident that Jimmie wassomeone who Maggie greatly cared for, but instead, Jimmie has turned his back onhis sister. The character is determined to save his reputation as a “soldier”while also appearing on a higher social plane, which results in abandoning hissister. One can say that with knowing Maggie no longer has her brother’ssupport, she has nowhere to go but to walk the streets and become what herfamily has already thought of her; a prostitute. Next,as the novel progresses readers are shown Maggie’s relationship with Pete andhow his disdain for Maggie leads to his responsibility in her death. Pete ischaracterized as the savior who rescues Maggie after she has been kicked out ofthe house. Maggie’s thoughts and action towards Pete are displayed when thetext states, “She seemed to beseech tenderness of him” (Crane 73).
It is evidentthat Maggie has begun to take interest in Pete as he is her alternate from herpast experiences, but readers are able to quickly see through Pete. Afterencountering a longtime companion, Nellie, Pete’s behavior and attitude towardsMaggie begin to shift. Pete’s interest in Nellie is shown as he leaves Maggieat the hall. The narrator informs readers that “the woman walked down betweenthe rows of tables, Pete was at her shoulder talking earnestly, apparently inexplanation. The woman waved her hands with studied airs of indifference. Thedoors swung behind them, leaving Maggie and the mere boy seated at the table”(Crane 80). Due to this, Maggie is confused and unsure of her relationship withPete and shocked in his change in behavior. Again, Maggie is left to fend forherself as Pete leaves Maggie for another woman.
When asked where she should goPete responds with, “Oh, go teh hell” (Crane 86). Pete fails to see how he hasimpacted Maggie as she began to depend on him. Pete is concerned with keepinghis respectability at his workplace and believes Mary and Jimmie are to blame forwhat has happened to Maggie. The one individual who Maggie has begun to carefor has left her wandering the streets while other men, whose minds are onseducing Maggie, take interest in her. Tobegin, in the novel Maggie: A Girl of the Streets the character Mary,who is the mother of Maggie, is characterized as a ferocious dipsomaniac whosedrinking often causes violence. Due to the mother’s intoxication, therelationship between Maggie and her mother has a strain. The opening chaptergives the readers a glimpse of the mother’s behavior when Maggie breaks aplate.
The text states, “Her eyes glittered on her child with sudden hatred.The fervent red of her face turned almost to purple” (Crane 42). This statementhighlights the mother’s aggressive behavior and her short temper. The mother’sneed to heighten and augment situations with threatening words and actionsultimately affects Maggie as she encounters her first companion. When hearingof Maggie’s relationship with Pete, Mary throws her daughter out of the house.
The text states, “Go teh hell now, an’ see how yeh likes it. Git out. I won’thave sech as yehs in me house!” (Crane 65). Despite knowing the extent of herdaughter’s relationship, Mary believes Maggie has had sexual relations withPete therefore, she criticizes her daughter and is convinced she has gone tothe devil. Readers are shown the mother’s hypocrisy as her list of run-ins withthe law runs long, but she believes she displays the righteousness to judge herdaughter. With the mother’s decision to desert her daughter, Mary is heldresponsible for Maggie’s death. Mary ultimately leads her daughter into a lifeof danger and hardship.
A mother’s role is often to be a provider, protector,and nurturer to her children but readers are shown how Mary puts Maggie ondisplay to the neighboring individuals calling her an embarrassment to thefamily. It is exclaimed that Mary “rushed forward and grabbed her child,casting a terrible look of indignation at the girl” (Crane 83). Due to Mary’sspectacle, and disregard for her daughter, Maggie is terrified and forced toleave her home as she is the new topic of discussion in the neighborhood. Whenan individual is born they are brought into a world that they are unaware of.At a young age, individuals get accustomed to what is said and displayed tothem. They continue to model what is around them until they step out of theirenvironment.
When stepping out of one’s environment individuals can gain anunderstanding that everyone’s way of life is different depending on how one israised and the environment they are raised in. Unfortunately, some individualsare not given the opportunity to step out of their environment because ofeconomic and social conditions that arise. These conditions shape an individual’sbehavior and may determine the events in their life. In Stephen Crane’s novel, Maggie:A Girl of the Streets, readers are shown the various characters who residein the slums of New York City, known as Bowery. Crane metaphorically refers tothe living conditions as a “mud puddle” due to the character’s detrimentalenvironment.
The plot of the story displays how the main character, Maggie, turnsto prostitution which leads to her horrific death at the story’s end. With theuse of characterization and hypocrisy, this paper will showcase the complex mixof culpability among three major characters that are held responsible forMaggie’s death which leads to the social commentary that the author isoffering.