In the late nineteenth century people obtained more freedom. The American rags to riches story struck a chord with many people and they tried to change their social class. For some, even with new opportunities in life, it would be hard for them to climb the class ladder. Many people live lives full of hardship and obstacles, such as Maggie Johnson from Stephen Crane's Maggie a Girl of the Streets, who grows up in the slums of New York City. Edna Pontellier from Kate Chopin's The Awakening lives a life of extravagance and wealth but still ends up dying a sad and lonely death because she makes poor decisions. Maggie also dies in a tragic death, but not because of bad choices, but because of the situation she finds herself in throughout her life. Maggie's situation turns her into a victim and facilitates her tragic death while Edna makes herself into a victim and causes her own death.
Maggie lives with a poor and dysfunctional family and a hopeless future with only the small possibility of change. The environment and setting she grows up in do not support anything more than a dull, dreary and pathetic future for her. An old woman asks Maggie's brother Jimmy: "Eh, Gawd, child, what is it this time? Is yer fader beatin yer mudder, or yer mudder beatin yer fader? (Maggie, 10)" while he runs to Maggie's apartment one night. The lack of love and support of her family hinders Maggie's ability to live a happy and fulfilling life. Without knowing that someone loves her no matter what she does or how she acts Maggie may feel desperate enough to change her situation by any means she can, and without any useful guidance. Even without any positive influences Maggie grows up different from the low-life's living with and around her. Crane explains Maggie's uniqueness in the passage "None of the dirt of Rum Alley seemed to be in her veins. The philosophers up-stairs, down-stairs and on the same floor, puzzled over it" (Maggie 16). Maggie's... [continues]
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