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Hypocrisy in Steven Crane’s Maggie: A Girl Of The Streets Essay

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“Maggie: Girl of the Streets,” written by Stephen Crane, is the common tale of girl fallen
victim to the environment around her. Embedded in the story is the Darwin theory survival of
the fittest, in which Maggie, the main character does manage to survive, but with drastic
consequences. Born into a hell-hole with no positive role models around her, her tragic fate was
expected to some degree. Prostitution for women in poverty was not an uncommon occupation
and suicide as death was also a common form of an ends to means for literature of that time as
well. Crane uses Maggie and her outcome to expose the solemn slums of New York. Maggie is
viewed as a victim of her bowery lifestyle and her fate is also attributed to her victimization of
the hypocrisy of religion as well. She is frequently condemned to hell by her mother and brother
for her choice of lifestyle, but on the contrary she was never taught that there was another means
to her lifestyle. The Johnson’s public damnation of Maggie’s behavior provides some evidence
that “they are keen on respectability as the primary moral goal,” stated Nazmi Al-Shalabi author
of “Authenticity and Role-Playing in S. Crane’s Maggie: A girl of the streets” (200). Everyone
who had any power of influence over her life, such as her mother, brother, Pete, and the reverend
failed to teach her the moral integrity of which they claimed to live by but instead were more
focused on keeping their pointed a finger to her flaws. I am suggesting that Crane wishes to
expose the hypocrisy of religion by creating a character whose death is attributed to her lack of



knowledge of moral ethics, which George Wilhelm Hegel argues is achieved by completing
three phases that he adapted from the Christian Doctrine with the purpose of obtaining self-
knowledge.

Understanding Hegel’s phases will provide insight to how Maggie was unable to obtain
moral ethics as well of self-knowledge due to the lack of positive influences in her life. The three
phases are when man experiences the following: self-estrangement or the fallen state,
objectification, and self-knowledge or appropriation. Self estrangement can be identified as the
phase when man fails to uphold the moral standard of which he created for himself and, as a
result, develops a guilty conscious. The Christian doctrine would probably deem...


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Works Cited Page

Al-Shalabi, Nazmi. “Authenticity and Role-Playing in S. Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of The
Streets.” International Journal Sept. 2009: 199-203. Academic Search Complete. Web.
16 Nov. 2012.

Brace, Charles Loring. The Dangerous Classes of New York; and Twenty
Years’ Work Among Them. New York: Wynkoop & Hallenbeck, 1872.
114-19. Print.

Crane, Stephen. Maggie Girl on the Streets. Ed. Thomas A. Gullason. New York: W.W. Norton
& Company, 1979. Print.

Fudge, Keith. “Sisterhood Born from Seduction: Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple, and
Stephen Crane’s Maggie Johnson.” Journal of American Culture None: 43-50. Academic
Search Complete. Web. 16 Nov. 2012.

Hussman, Lawrence E. Jr. “The Fate of the Fallen Woman in Maggie and Sister Carrie” The
Image of the Prostitute in Modern Literature. Ed. Pringle, Mary Beth and Pierre L. Horn.
New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing CO, 1984. 91-100. Print.

MacDonald, Susan Peck. “Jane Austen and the Tradition of the Absent Mother.” The Lost
Tradition: Mothers and Daughters in Literature. Ed. Broner, E.M. and Cathy N.
Davidson. Pennsylvania: Frederick Ungar Publishing Company, 1980. 58-69. Print.


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