Maggie a Girl of the Streets

Topics: Stephen Crane, Naturalism, Literature Pages: 6 (2216 words) Published: December 9, 2006
Many times the thoughts and works of great authors and writers are published before the general public is ready for the graphic images that these works create. Only after society has become more accepting of situations over time, can these works truly be appreciated instead of facing disapproval from society. Tragically, often times it takes many years and countless hours of revisions to tone down the work to fit within the moral mold that society creates for itself. Stephen Crane was one of those authors who wanted to use his works to show his readers and the general population the things that are often just swept under the rug. In Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane, many controversial topics are addressed which led to problems with publication.

Following the end of the Civil War, a new literary movement began to take place. "Realism was taking root in the United States from 1865 to 1900, the period justifiably seen as a change of literary vectors" (Kizima 2). After seeing all of the destruction that the war had caused, society began to realize how bad things can be and wanted to deepen their understanding as to why people act the way that they do. "Realistic fiction has been primarily a revolt against the sentimentality and melodrama of romantic idealism" (World Book 16: 173). The Civil War was an extremely traumatic event in American history and changed the way that the citizens of the United States viewed almost all things. Writers of realist fiction attempt to, as accurately as possible, show how things really are. They also seek to bring to light the conditions in society that have previously gone ignored. As compared with the works of romantic literature, characters in realist works tend to be dynamic rather than static. Also, "[s]ettings are more ordinary, plots are less important, and themes are less obvious" (World Book 16: 173). Realist writings focus more on developing their characters and less on the surroundings and situation in which the characters find themselves. Even as realism was establishing itself as the new genre of American literature, it did not mean the end of romanticism. When the realist movement in the United States is compared with that of the European writers, one would find that in the United States, "the conflict between [romanticism and realism] was much less acute: realism did not displace, or replace romanticism. The two trends coexisted and successfully interacted for a long time" (Kizima 2). This integration of romanticism and realism in the United States created a whole new literary movement which would become known as naturalism. Although naturalism is usually linked to realism, the two differ in their views on the ability of humans to make decisions. "The realist believes people can make moral choices, but the naturalist believes they cannot. Naturalists believe that everything that a person does is determined by his heredity, or environment, or both" (World Book 14: 63). The pessimistic beliefs of the naturalist often times led to great controversy over the issues about which they wrote. This controversy over the naturalist's beliefs would lead to many problems for Stephen Crane when he was attempting to get Maggie: A Girl of the Streets published.

While shopping around for a publisher for his new book, Crane soon realized that this search would be much more difficult than usual. "After completing Maggie when he was twenty-two, Crane had the novel published privately under the pseudonym Johnston Smith in 1983" (Milne 109). The finances that Crane used to publish Maggie: A Girl of the Streets came in part from the sale of "his shares in [a] coal mine at Kingston, Pennsylvania" which in addition "to the money received from the sale of Mrs. Crane's Asbury home, provided him with the means to have Maggie privately printed" (Wertheim 83). The novel for which Crane paid to publish was printed by a publishing company "which specialized in medical...

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