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Stephen Crane is the author of this 1893 American novel and it’s often referred to as a novella, due to its brevity in length. This novel was the first ever published fiction book by Crane. At this time, Crane was only 21 years old and majority of the publishers considered the novel’s work very risqué, thus, forcing him to foot the entire bill of the novel’s publication. The novel’s location is situated at a neighborhood of New York called Bowery, in the lower region of Manhattan.
The story begins with Jimmie, who is a young boy at this point, trying to duel an opposing neighborhood’s gang of boys solely. He goes home after being saved luckily by Pete but finds the usual domestic violence of his parents. The children are made to deviate from the stipulated norms of the society by their parents’ brutality and uncultured tendencies. The Johnsons, Jimmie and Maggie’s family is hated by the people around the city since the parents are ever drunks and get rowdy in the night. When Tommie and the father pass away, Jimmie is already molded into a cynical, aggressive and sneering youth. He comes home at night while drunk, this negativity leads to the ruin of the entire family in the end.
When Jimmie brings home his black friend Pete, for some reason Maggie falls in love with him. Pete then takes Maggie out to a night club that has nightly performance; she faces opposition from her mother and the other. She hence runs away from home and receives a cold welcome when she comes back home once, she runs away completely and later dies. After her death her, brother becomes loving and her mother decides to forgive her for disgracing the family’s name and says that everybody can go to heaven.
The girl of the street is Maggie. She is the main character in Crane’s novel, born in a poor and drunkard family which occasionally faces domestic violence. She is a beautiful woman, this is seen when most men in the neighborhood adore her but she is not interested in any of them. Maggie also is a lady who hides her feelings, this is seen when she falls in love with Pete the black friend of her brother and hides it since she only stares at him but don’t tell him. She also hides her feelings when she watch her parents fight but does not get involved with them she just goes on doing her things. She actually does not get influenced by other people’s actions. The other main character is Jimmie, he is Maggie’s brother. Jimmie is violent, this is seen from his childhood where he picks up fights in the street against others and he is actually rescued by his friend Pete. The other characters include; Mrs. Johnsons, Maggie’s mother who is a drunkard, Mr. Johnson, Maggie’s father who is also a drunkard. Pete, Jimmies’ friend is helpful as he helps him when he gets into fights.
The major theme on Crane’s novel A Girl of the Street is evident with the constant struggle of Maggie to fit in with her family and more specifically her mother. The theme of forgiveness is clearly depicted whereby Maggie is forgiven by both her mother and brother after her death for being a disgrace to the family. This shows that true friends and family will always be ready to forgive no matter what and that one can be forgiven even after death. When Maggie goes against her family beliefs and dates a person of a different race it makes her mother and brother go against her. They eventually forgive her after all that when she dies. Theme of prostitution is also depicted when Maggie turns to prostitution and succumbs to the same.
Conflict in the novel revolves around Maggie who is the protagonist. Conflict is depicted in the way Maggie is brought up. The girl is raised in the midst of abuse and sentimental fantasy. In some way, Maggie’s mother Mrs. Johnson is the antagonist who instigates violence at home, forcing Maggie to relocate to the street. Looking at the conflict in another level, the social and economic environment in which Maggie is brought up is an antagonist. It generates inevitable forces that push Maggie to move to the life of prostitution from her sweatshop life.
Climax and Point of View
The climax of the novella occurs when Maggie is taken to a dance hall by Pete for the first time. Maggie is taught by this experience the melodramas sentimental values. She begins to view herself as an asset that can earn her a living. The story has no narrator. The author uses the omniscient point of view.
In the context of history, the publication of the novel “Maggie” took place during the industrialization period. Initially, agriculture shaped the economy of the United States mostly in the 19th century, until its late 1800s industrialization. Furthermore, in American fiction, “Maggie” is the first novel to be regarded as unalloyed naturalism work. With reference to the principles of naturalism, a character is placed in a world, where the biological heredity of that character cannot be escaped. In addition, the prevailing circumstances in the domain of a person end up dominating that person’s behavior, leading to responsibility deprivation of the same person. Though the denial by Crane of Emile Zola, the naturalism creator influence on his work is lame, indications by examples in his text prove that the French naturalism was his source of inspiration.