Steven Crane was obsessed with violence, both physical and psychological, and with the urban poor. His book, Maggie: A Girl of the Streetsis a perfect example of Crane’s obsessions. Maggie is born and raised in the slums of New York City eventually turning to prostitution to earn a living. Her education came from the dark and seedy streets where nothing good is bound to happen. It is survival of the fittest – both physically and psychologically.
Maggie learns that even though there are always people surrounding her, growing up on the streets of New York is a lonely place. She takes care of her brother, Jimmie, when he is jumped by a rival gang or beaten by his father. The other children of the streets become her family, it is from them that she learns how to take care of herself.
The typical New York accent is vividly depicted throughout this story with clever spelling and accuracy. The unique speech of New Yorkers is evident with every character such as when Jimmie, Maggie’s brother, after a street fight says to another child, “Ah, where deh hell was yeh when I was doin’ all deh fightin’?” (Crane, p 958). Another unique speech pattern found in this piece of literature is that many of the characters end their statements with the questions “See?” Pete, a friend of Jimmie’s, is telling tales of working in the bar where he ends almost statement with the ‘See?’ question which is never answered nor is it expected to be answered.
Many of the settings such as the bars, the streets, and the apartment could be in any big city but the mention of Williamsburg and the Bowery are bits of a local culture uniquely New York. There are more people in New York than there is real estate and Crane conveys this sentiment when he writes, “The building quivered and creaked from the weight of humanity stamping about in its bowels.” (Crane. P 959).
“Maggie: A Girl of the Streets” transports the reader into the dark and seedy side of New York City. Maggie “blossomed in a mud puddle” (Crane, p 967). She becomes a beautiful woman despite her surroundings. It is a story of New York City distinguished by the speech, the settings, and the mannerisms of a typical New Yorker making it a perfect example of local color writing.
I truly enjoyed reading this story as I have always had a fascination with New York City and its residents and their unique lifestyle. I am not sure where this fascination came from as I grew up in the middle of the farm fields in the Midwest. This book has New York written all over it.
Have you read “Maggie: A Girl of the Streets” by Steven Crane? What did you think of it? Please leave me a comment with you thoughts. I love hearing from you.
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