Maggie: Dead on the Streets

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Since its publication in 1896, Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets has generated speculation and debate over issues like censorship (Dowling 37) and class consciousness (Lawson), but what is possibly the most heated debate concerning Maggie is less about social or literary criticism and more about a plot point—the cause of death of Maggie Johnson; some critics claim that she is murdered, while others claim that she commits suicide (Dowling 36), and, while both arguments have strong cases, they seem to have neglected the most probable cause of the death of a Stephen Crane character—death by natural causes.

Robert M. Dowling and Donald Pizer present opposing cases in their article “A Cold Case File Reopened: Was Crane’s Maggie Murdered or a Suicide?” in which Dowling presents the death by murder while Pizer claims death by suicide (Dowling 37).

Donald Pizer bases his argument on textual, historical, and critical evidence. In a textual context Pizer claims that the debate over the cause of death only began after the release of the second, edited version of the story. The key factor leading to the debate is the omission of a section of the original text that includes a “huge fat man” (Dowling 37) who is depicted menacingly in the scene just prior to the revelation of Maggie’s death. Pizer contends that the reason many claim Maggie is murdered by the fat man is not because of his inclusion in the story, but because of the attention drawn to him because of his omission. Pizer supports this assertion saying:

The possibility that Maggie is murdered did not enter criticism of the novel

until the mid-1960s, following R. W. Stallman’s and Joseph Katz’s discussions

(in 1955 and 1966 respectively) of the significant difference ...

... middle of paper ... “afar off the lights of the avenues [glittering]” (55). Maggie is not complicated enough to change so much.

Works Cited

Crane, Stephen. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets. Charleston: Createspace, 2011. Print.

Cunliffe, Marcus. “Stephen Crane and the American Background of Maggie.” American Quarterly 7.1 (1955): 31-44. JSTOR. Web. 24 April 2012.

Dowling, Robert M., and Donald Pizer. "A Cold Case File Reopened: Was Crane's Maggie Murdered or a Suicide?" American Literary Realism 42.1 (2009): 36+.Academic OneFile. Web. 23 Apr. 2012.

Lawson, Andrew. “Class Mimicry in Stephen Crane’s City.” American Literary History 16.4 (2004): 596-618. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 23 Apr. 2012.

Stallman, Robert Wooster. "Stephen Crane's Revision of Maggie: A Girl Of The Streets." American Literature 26.4 (1955): 528-537. Academic Search Complete. Web. 23 Apr. 2012.
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