Kingwood College Library

MAGGIE: A GIRL OF THE STREETS

By Stephen Crane 1871-1900
Stephen Crane
 

First published:  1893 
Time of plot:  Late Nineteenth Century 
Locale:  New York City 
Keywords:  Stephen Crane, Maggie: a Girl of the Streets, naturalism in literature, prostitutes in literature, social class, slum life, suicide


 
 
 
  

Biography Characters
Book Criticisms Historical Events
Plot Summary Journal Articles
Internet Sites Themes

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BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION

Stephen Crane, the youngest of fourteen children, was born November 1, 1871 in Newark, New Jersey.  His father, the Reverend Dr. Jonathan Townley Crane, was a Methodist minister.  His mother, Mary Peck Crane, was an educated and involved woman for Victorian times.  This deeply religious family moved often as his father changed churches, but, on Dr. Crane's death in 1880, the mother returned with Stephen to New Jersey, first to Newark and then to Asbury Park.  She was elected president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in that city and lectured frequently in support of this organization.  Crane, now in his teens, rebelled against his strict upbringing, and was sent to military school.  After high school, he attended college for a year and then dropped out.  He moved to New York City, where he began his career as a newspaper journalist.  He learned much about big city life and his explorations of the Bowery gave him material for his first novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, published in 1893.  Because of the book's controversial subject matter, he had to print it privately.  It was not a commercial success but did receive several favorable reviews, including one from the notable author, William Dean Howells.  Crane continued to write and, in 1896, published his most famous work, The Red Badge of Courage.  This novel was critically acclaimed, and led to international fame.  However, his defense of a New York prostitute who had been harassed by the police led to trouble with the authorities, and he fled to Florida to report on the Cuban insurrection against Spain.  In Florida he met the madam of a brothel, Cora Taylor, with whom he lived for the rest of his short life.  He continued to seek adventure by reporting on conflicts in Greece and the Spanish American War.  He lived his last years in England, feverishly writing articles, stories and poems to keep his creditors at bay.  He died of tuberculosis in Germany, where Cora had taken him in search of a cure, on June 5, 1900 before he reached the age of thirty.  During the next twenty years his work was almost forgotten.  In 1923 Thomas Beer published a biography of Crane which once more brought him to public attention, and his reputation has steadily increased since.
 
  

BOOKS WITH BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION
REF PN 41.D5 
Vols.12, 54, 78
Dictionary of Literary
Biography
DLB is a multi-volume work which provides detailed biographical 
sketches of the authors' literary writings as well as general critical commentary. 
REF PS 129.A55 
Vol. 1
American Writers This collection of literary biographies provides information about the lives, careers and works of American writers
REF PS 21.M34 1991 
Vol. 2
Magill's Survey of American Literature Discussion of Stephen Crane's contributions and achievements in literature.
REF PS21.H3 1983 Oxford Companion to American Literature One page summary of the author's life and literary significance
PS 1449.C85 Z982 The Crane Log This book, a part of the American Authors Log Series, is a biography of Stephen Crane

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CHARACTERS

Tenements in the Bowery, 1890's

Maggie is a child living in the tenements of the Bowery, a slum area of New York City.  Her father and mother are both alcoholics, and she and her two brothers suffer a violent and abusive childhood.  The younger of the two boys dies, but Maggie and Jimmie survive.  Maggie grows into a beautiful girl, somehow untouched by the squalor around her.  When her brother brings home his friend Pete, who shows her some attention, she falls in love with him.  She fails to see him as the uncouth braggart that he is and succumbs to his charms.  She goes to live with him, but Pete soon tires of her.  She tries to return home, but is turned away.  Both her mother and her brother condemn her as a fallen woman, despite the immoral behavior of both of them.  Maggie, homeless and penniless, turns to prostitution to make a living.  As her life becomes more dismal, she commits suicide.  Her mother, on learning of Maggie's death, wails hypocritically that she will forgive Maggie her sins.
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THEMES TO CONSIDER
Hypocrisy Place of women in society
Naturalism Prostitution
Life in the slums Fatalism
Intolerance Conventional morality
Self-righteousness Respectability
Irony in Maggie Unreal view of life
Human cruelty Indifference

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BOOKS CONTAINING CRITICISMS

Use the Library Catalog to locate books in the North Harris Montgomery Community College District. Type Maggie: A Girl of the Streets in the subject keyword box.

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REF PN 771.G27 
Vols. 11, 17, 32
Twentieth Century Literary Criticism TCLC contains excerpts from critical essays in books and journals.  Use these volumes to 1) select a topic or theme 2) find the full articles or essay in the library, and 3) locate other articles and books from the "Further Reading" section.
REF PN 523.W67 1992 
Vol. 2
World Literature Criticism A broad selection of the best criticism of works by major writers
REF PR 85.C76 
Vol. 10
The Critical Perspective Essays and critical analysis of the author's writings
REF PR 85.N39 
Vol. 10
The New Moulton's Library of Literary Criticism An analysis of the author's writing style as well as a copy of the criticism by William Dean Howells
REF PN 3451.C7 
Vol. 2
Critical Survey of Long Fiction
       Authors
The essay on Stephen Crane gives his principal works, his achievements, a short biography, and an analysis of the novel.
PS 1449.C85.M3 1979 Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
A Norton Critical Edition
Backgrounds and sources, reviews and criticism as well as the text of the novel

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1890's clothing
picture courtesy of Cathy Decker

EVENTS AT THE TIME THE NOVEL WAS WRITTEN

From 1880 to 1900 the population of the United States increased by some twenty-six million people, nine million of whom were immigrants.  These new citizens settled in urban centers instead of on the land as had previously been the case.  These people formed their own ethnic communities within the cities.  New York City's population grew to three million people.  The resultant need for more municipal services, housing, jobs, and educational facilities overwhelmed the local government. Tensions among the various groups erupted into violence that local police were unable to completely control.  The corrupt Tammany Hall political machine dominated the city's government by promising the poor a solution to their problems.  The federal government was led by a succession of ineffective presidents, and was only a minor presence in the lives of most Americans.

The captains of industry such as John Pierpont Morgan  held the power.  The industrial revolution was bringing major changes.  Railroads now crisscrossed the nation, moving manufactured goods and raw materials to and from the major port cities.  Labor issues such as workplace safety, the eight-hour day, and the right to organize were the principles expounded by such labor leaders as Eugene Debs.  The increasing diversity of its citizens and the desire by the newcomers to have their piece of the "American pie" led to social and cultural upheaval.  The largely Protestant, rural, Anglo-Saxon culture was being displaced.  The resultant cultural shock caused feelings of uncertainty and anxiety among the citizens.  The country was remaking itself, changing its values, reassessing its long-held notions of democracy and equality, and becoming a society that gauged personal worth by money and possessions.  "The Gilded Age" accurately describes the America of the 1880's and 1890's. Stephen Crane's realistic, ironic, and iconoclastic writings come out of this environment.
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BOOKS TO EXPLAIN THE TIMES

 

 

REF E 169.1.A47194 1878-99 
Vol. 6
American Eras A detailed history of the years from 1878 to 1899.
HD8066.W47 1989 
Vol. 2
Who Built America? Includes information about the Gilded Age working people and their culture
REF HN 57.E58 1993 Encyclopedia of American Social History This three volume reference work has a number of essays on the social issues of the Gilded Age
REF E 165.M5 1993 The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800's A topical dictionary of information on everyday life in the 1800s 
E 168.G48 Age of Excess: the United States from 1877 to 1914 Discusses American culture during this period 
HV 4046.N6.R58 1957b How the Other Half Lives This work, written in 1890, describes slum conditions in New York City
PS 88.H6  Backgrounds of American Literary Thought An excellent chapter on literary naturalism

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FINDING JOURNAL ARTICLES

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MLA Bibliography
This is the most important database for your research.  Use it to find articles in journals and essays.  This is not a full-text database, but many of the journals will be available in the Kingwood College Library.

PA Research II/ ProQuest
This huge database is not exclusively a literary database, but a number of literary journals are indexed and some are available full text.  Many articles will be available on microfiche at the library.

Literature Resource Center
This database includes most of the information in TCLC, World Literature Criticism, and Dictionary of Literary Biography. It also has a few scholarly journal articles. You'll also find links to appropriate Internet sites.
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INTERNET SITES

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
   The text of the book from the Stephen Crane Society.

Stephen Crane History Page
  A timeline of the significant events in Stephen Crane's life

Selected Bibliography on Stephen Crane's Maggie and The Monster
   A list of sources for articles and books on Maggie

American Realism Resource Page
   Excellent links to definition and background material of realism in American literature from an English course at Pittsburg State University.

The Historical Context of Stephen Crane's Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
   An essay about the social conditions that existed at the time Stephen Crane wrote Maggie: A Girl of the Streets.

Gaelic Gotham: A History of the Irish in New York
   Good background material on the Irish in New York City

The Women of the Gilded Age
   An essay examining the role of women in society in the Gilded Age; discusses Maggie


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Copyright 1999 []
Written by: Updated: Jun. 18, 2002 cbg