Essay on Naturalism in Stephen Crane's Maggie: A Girl of the Streets

Essay on Naturalism in Stephen Crane's Maggie: A Girl of the Streets

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Naturalism in Stephen Crane's Maggie: A Girl of the Streets


Stephen Crane's interpretations of life are spawned from his own opinions of the world. These opinions correspond with naturalistic train of thought. He makes use of an observation technique to show the natural law of the universe: One can either accept the laws determining social order or become their victim. In the Novella, Maggie is used as a medium to paint the picture of the devastating consequences that befall one who attempts to violate this unspoken law, breaching the social and economic boundaries set upon them at birth. Crane's views of the poor allow him to create his characters as shells absent of conscious thought, leaving them susceptible to the ills of their environment.

Crane's writings depict what he believes are the norms of the world. He molds himself after the dying form of realism but finds himself often giving naturalistic qualities to his work. Such is evident in Maggie: A Girl of the Streets. Though this example of Crane's work is realistic, offering an accurate, detailed, unembellished depiction of life, it is written within a frame that can only be deemed as naturalistic. These shifts in writing form leave the reader wondering from which perspective did Crane approached the story, that of realist or naturalist; evidence supports that of the latter more than that of the prior.

Naturalism is synonymous with characters being pitted against forces that are beyond their control. The naturalists of Crane's day "naturalized historical process", making it inevitable. They believed that social circumstances were natural and hence unavoidable. These naturalists created effect without necessarily elaborating on the cause. Though Maggie is not t...


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...emselves. Consequently, he threw them into his pieces to fend for themselves, lacking any defense from the inevitable forces that be.

Stephen Crane began writing Maggie with "little relatively knowledge about the characters as individuals but had a clear notion of the plot and of his heroine's inevitable downward slide"(P. 147). He sought to tell the story of a girl of promise who succumbs to the brutal circumstances of her life in the slums of lower Manhattan. Stephen Crane wrote with a purpose and accomplished the goal of the novella: illustrating what happens when one, such as Maggie, defies the conformists ways of her social class and rebels.

Work Cited

Stephen Crane, edited by Phyllis Frus and Stanley Corkin. The Red Badge of Courage, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and other selected writings. New Riverside Editions/ Paul Lauter, Series Edition 1999

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