Naturalism in Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
The “naturalism” school of American literature, especially the area of late twentieth century writer Stephen Crane, certainly defines itself with a straightforward, journalistic descriptive style and an eye for the people of everyday, American environments. In terms of Crane’s novella Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, the naturalist’s work shines through despite the geographical and narrative differences of the story. Specifically, this paper will analyze the naturalistic layers of Crane’s narrative, which plays on reader assumptions from the journalistic composition to create a link between style and theme.
Maggie: A Girl of the Streets surfaces to the reader’s consciousness early in the story mainly through the importance of the visual details of color, the appearance of its inhabitants, and the placement of physical objects. The representation of the streets of the tenement-housing district “Rum Alley,” works with shadowy and bitter textures to enter the reader into the visual world before solidifying a gruesome effect through supporting imagery. “The dark region” of the tenement alley where “A wind of early autumn raised yellow dust,” and where “Formidable women, with uncombed hair and disordered dress, gossiped while leaning on railings” alongside “Withered persons, in curious postures of submission to something, sat smoking pipes in obscure corners” and “A thousand odors of cooking food that came forth to the street” (130). This initial passage, interested in the color of the dust, the dark shapes, and, lastly, the textures of smoke and smell, appears as an impersonal and “gruesome” atmosphere through inviting the reader visually before enhancing the landscape with textures of cooking food and clusters of pipe smoke.
The depiction of factories complicates the reader’s mental eye throughout the story through its playing on internal/external perspective. Particularly, Maggie “received a stool and a machine in...
Cited: Crane, Stephen. “Maggie: A Girl of the Streets.” Great Short Works of Stephen Crane. New
York: Perennial Classics, 2004, 127-189.
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