The Urban Environment In Maggie: A Girl Of The Streets

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According to Crane, Maggie "tries to show that environment is a tremendous thing in the world and frequently shapes lives regardless." This quotation will support my view that a person’s identity can be shaped by their surroundings. This essay aims to explore how the urban environment moulds a person’s identity. I will be focusing on the novels, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane, Nella Larsen’s novel Passing, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson and The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. There are many trial and tribulations associated with being raised in the slums of New York City. Crane’s novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets demonstrates this and how the environment can affect a person’s identity. In the first few lines of the novel, Crane depicts the world that his characters were raised in by writing, ‘A very little boy stood upon a heap of gravel for the honour of Rum Alley. He was throwing stones at howling urchins from Devil's Row who were circling madly about the heap and pelting at him’. Crane creates an introduction to the Johnson family here and the environment they live in. In these first few lines we see a little boy “throwing stones”, which could suggest a bad development of the urban environment, particularly a slum setting and the theme of the overpowering effect of the environment according to David Prizer. The reader is also oblivious to who this “little boy” is, giving a further loss of identity through the use of the urban environment. Crane uses his style of writing to emphasize the power of the environment over the characters, consequently leaving the characters without a definitive identity. Crane introduces ‘Rum Alley’ before he mentions any of the ... ... middle of paper ... ...elf!’ This tells the reader that she is of high status by visiting places like ‘The Benedick’. When Rosedale’s sees her leaving the building, he uses her high status against her to help him get higher in the social chain, by cleverly manipulating her. ‘Yes, that’s the name: I believe it’s an old word for bachelor, isn’t it? I happen to own the building – that’s how I know.’ This can be applied to social Darwinism as Rosedale sees she is of importance through the urban settings she visits and wants to get higher in the social chain by applying the theory “survival of the fittest.” The texts mentioned in this essay have clearly shown that the urban environment can shape a person’s identity. Some individuals might put it down to their own self-being but as proven by the texts above, its possible that a person’s surroundings have made an impact on their identity.
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