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Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (Norton Critical Editions) Paperback – 1 Apr 1979

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; New edition edition (1 April 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393950247
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393950243
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 0.2 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,016,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Stephen Crane was born November 1, 1871 in Newark, New Jersey, the youngest of fourteen children. He wrote his first poem at age eight. The family moved to Port Jervis, New York in 1876 so his father could become the pastor of a Methodist Church. His father passed away just four years later at age 60. After his father’s death, his mother moved back to New Jersey, leaving him with his brother Edmund, then his brother William, then his sister Helen. At the age of 14, Crane wrote his first full story. Eventually, Stephen attended Claverack College, a military school, but he would often skip classes to play baseball. He was academically weak and not very popular, but there were Civil War veterans on the staff at the school and their stories would provide him with material for “The Red Badge of Courage.” Then, he transferred to a college in Easton Pennsylvania to pursue a degree in mining engineering. After one semester, he transferred to Syracuse University, but took only one class. He finally declared that college was a waste of his time and became a writer and reporter. Moving back once again to New Jersey, he became a heavy smoker and developed a hacking cough. He wrote a novel entitled “Maggie: A Girl of the Streets” under the name Johnston Smith, but lost his own money funding it. In 1893, Stephen became frustrated with the dry Civil War stories that were prevalent at the time, and decided to tell a story written with the true emotions of a soldier in battle. He handwrote “The Red Badge of Courage” as he could not afford a typewriter. It was published in serialized form in multiple newspapers, becoming quite popular. Finally in 1895, the book was published in novel form and rose to the top of several bestseller lists. He finally made it to Cuba as a correspondent during the Spanish-American War and actually served as a courier during the fighting with Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. His money was running out however and he was developing signs of tuberculosis. Becoming friends with Joseph Conrad, Henry James and H. G. Wells, he began working on another novel, but his health continued to worsen. Crane finally passed away on June 5, 1900 at the age of 28 while in Badenweiler, Germany. He is buried in Hillside, New Jersey. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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A very little boy stood upon a heap of gravel for the honor of Rum Alley. Read the first page
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Miss VINE VOICE on 20 Feb 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you have to purchase this short story for university/school other study reasons then this edition is the one to get - it includes loads of helpful critical essays.
However, if you're thinking of purchasing the book as a good read or entertaining story, don't bother. Whilst it's mildly interesting as an example of the beginning of the Naturalism movement in America, it's not particularly absorbing and despite the story only actually taking up about 60 pages, I found it difficult to read, certainly the very opposite of a page-turner.
Nothing really happens in it and the ending remains disappointingly ambiguous. Also, for a story which aimed to be realistic, the motivations of the characters are not very well examined and many of their actions seem, quite frankly, bizarre. Maggie's mother and brother are basically reduced to charicatures of the 'angry, violent, working class', without much thought given to the reasons behind their behaviour.
Basically, not worth reading unless you have to.
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By Chris on 30 April 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a well book at a really good price. I am very happy with this purchase. Very happy !
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 23 reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
An Easy Read with Power and Dark Humor 6 Dec 1997
By - Published on
Format: Paperback
If I were pressed to use one word to describe this book itwould be dark. However, Crane's novel is a moving piece with momentsof transcendence and rampant dark humor.
Basically, it is the story of Maggie, an undeveloped character who takes the back-seat to her loud and abusive parents, her swaggering, self-confident brother Jimmie and his friend, the boastful Pete.
The novel chronicles the injustices that surround Maggie, who is quiet and doesn't fight back. A chilling look at poor, urban life in the late 1800's, it is also a tale critical of society's judgmentality and questioning of morality. A more complex novel than it seems on first look, it is wonderful to take apart and examine the relationship between Maggie and Pete, Maggie and her mother, and Maggie and Jimmie.
Most importantly, however, are the quiet moments of transcendence in this novel.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A Blossom in a Mud Puddle 11 Feb 2008
By Borowy26 - Published on
Format: Paperback
I reread Stephen Crane's "Maggie: A Girl of the Streets" yesterday. It was the first time that I had revisited the book in almost thirty years. Originally, I read Crane's writings in a seminar course which compared his pioneering works to those of Ernest Hemingway. There were common themes in the works of both authors and they both employed a naturalistic style. Crane was more poetic, however, while Hemingway was more workmanlike in his choice of words and phrases.

This tragic story takes place in the slums and the garment district. Maggie is the daughter of two alcoholic Irish immigrants. Her youngest brother dies during early childhood. Her older brother spends his youth fighting rivals in the streets and enduring beatings at the hands of his intoxicated parents at home. In adulthood, Jimmie becomes a teamster and introduces his sister to his friend Pete, a well dressed local bartender. Pete is taken with Maggie's shape and begins courting her. Eventually, Maggie quits her five dollars a week job at the cuff and collar factory and leaves home with Pete. This ill considered decision is the beginning of her ruin. Pete cares nothing for Maggie. She is a only a passing fancy.

Environment determines everything in this sad tale. Alcoholic rages and casual acts of random violence occur on almost every page. Crane employs dialect to reflect the speech patterns of his characters. When Pete abandons Maggie for Nellie, a stylish prostitute, the saddest line of dialogue is Maggie's question: "Where kin I go?" Disowned by her widowed mother, who is herself a frequent defendant in the police courts on account of her drunken behavior, and brother, whose own relations with women are not much better than those of Pete, for having gone to the devil, Maggie begins walking the pavements alone and becomes one of the scarlet legions.

Initially, Crane had to self publish this book since it was considered to coarse and profane to print. It proved to be unprofitable and he gave many copies of the limited first printing away. Unlike "The Red Badge of Courage," there is no place for heroism and redemption in the Bowery streets inhabited by Maggie, Jimmie and Pete. This sad account of an unfortunate woman driven into a life of prostitution is far removed from the nightly celebrations at the opulent Everleigh Club.

It is humbling to think that Crane was capable of creating such a novella while he was scarcely over the age of twenty and that all of his poetry and prose was completed before his death at the age of twenty-eight.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Naturalism to the tee..... 29 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Stephen Crane does a superb job of displaying the qualities of Naturalism in this story. He focuses on the lower classes, deals with an amoral set of ideas/decisions, displays a blatant attack on false values, a reformest agenda, imagery that is either animalistic or mechanistic, and a plot of decline that often leads to catastrophe through a deterministic sequence of causes and effects. Crane attacks both the romantic idealism and the moral posturing of the church in this novel. The animalistic imagery, displayed in the Darwinian landscape of Rum Alley, is significant, for it reinforces the work's naturalistic orientation: humans are viewed as extensions of the animal kingdom engaged in a Darwinian struggle for survival. This novel assails the hypocricy of the priest who offers condemnation instead of compassion, who claims to help people, yet turns a deaf ear to their pleas for help, and whose moral posturing encourages others to do the same. BRAVO! Crane....If you would like to discuss this novel in greater detail, email me.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The underbelly of New York at the turn of the century 31 Jan 2007
By Diane Schirf - Published on
Format: Paperback
If Edith Wharton captures the snobbery, superficiality, hypocrisy, materialism, and coldness of New York City's turn-of-the-century elite, Stephen Crane reveals the toughness, callousness, brutality, and violence of New York's working class. Ironically, Wharton's Lily Bart and Crane's Maggie Johnson, both romantics moving in anti-romantic spheres, share a similar fate--abandoned by their respective societies.

Unlike Wharton, Crane wrote from a primarily journalistic, dispassionate point of view. The settings, the situations, the speech, and the similes reveal the underbelly of life among the working poor. Maggie opens with "a very little boy," her brother Jim, serving as "champion" of Rum Alley, an aptly named area where life is centered on working, drinking, and fighting.

Maggie and Jim's father can't keep him from fighting because that's all the boy knows, and the torn clothes that his drunken mother bemoans cannot compare to the furniture and crockery damage that occur during their violent marital spats. The father, a drunken brute like his wife, does not understand the irony of his demand when he says, ". . . Yer allus pounding 'im . . . I can't get no rest 'cause yer allus poundin' a kid. Let up, d'yeh hear? Don't be allus poundin' a kid." The infuriated mother responds with increased savagery. "At last she tossed him to a corner where he limply lay cursing and weeping." Jim, Maggie, and even the baby Tommie seem to be as disposable as the rest of the household goods.

Life in the city is lived outwardly, and the strong do not question themselves. While "Jimmie had an idea it wasn't common courtesy for a friend to come to one's home and ruin one's sister," his contemplations of his own actions toward women are cut off by self-absolution before such introspection can lead to self-incrimination. Later, Pete will share this attitude when Maggie attempts, in his mind, "to give him some responsibility in a matter that did not concern him."

Maggie and Jimmie's parents represent an extreme. Everyone knows their family's business, from the residents who share their tenement with its "gruesome doorway" to the group of urchins who waylay the mother as she is ejected from a saloon for "disturbance." The Johnsons' troubles delight the neighbors; the old woman downstairs tells Jim that "deh funnies' t'ing I ever saw" was Maggie "a-cryin' as if her heart would break, she was. It was deh funnies' t'ing I ever saw."

In the midst of this squalor, Maggie does have an inner life. Combined with her romanticism and naïveté, it convinces her that Pete is the height of urbane sophistication as he bullies waiters, telling them to "git off deh eart'." Interestingly, as she toils over "eternal collars and cuffs," Maggie has a daydream that foreshadows Pete's final chapter in the novel; she imagines him with a half dozen women "and thought he must lean dangerously toward an indefinite one, whom she pictured with great charms of person, but with an altogether contemptible disposition."

In Maggie's final appearance, Crane does not use her name, which perhaps answers her question from the preceding chapter: "Who?" She begins her anonymous journey near a theater district, where the affluent emerge from "a place of forgetfulness." Her wanderings on this one night reflect her life over the previous several months, as she leaves behind the bright light and glamor on a trail of rejection that leads ever downward, until she meets a wreck of a human, who follows "the girl of the crimson legions." No longer Maggie, she represents those whose naivete, hopes, and foolish romantic dreams are crushed by the code of toughness that Jimmie fights for at the beginning and the hypocrisy that her lamenting mother exhibits at her fall.

These stories can be hard to read, partly because most of the relationships seem detached or distant at best and bitterly heartless at worst. Maggie's father talks about pounding "a kid" as though they are not his own and have nothing to do with him. Pete is "stuck" on Maggie's shape only until she gets in the way of greater desires. George of George's Mother is happiest when he has made his old mother miserable. At the same time his "friends," whose habits and exhortations have led to his downfall, abandon him, just as he turned on his mother.

Love is a rare visitor to Crane's pages, apparent mostly in the maternal indulgences of George's Mother and the rediscovered affection of Mr. and Mrs. Binks in "Mr. Binks' Day Off." It is only in the countryside of New Jersey that the battling Binkses find a moment in which to express genuine affection: "Mrs. Binks had stolen forth her arm and linked it with his. Her head leaned softly against his shoulder."

Notably, the other loving relationship, between a child and "A Dark-Brown Dog," is marked by the brutality of the one and the submissiveness of the other. Their friendship begins when "the child lifted his hand and struck the dog a blow upon the head"; the dog "sank down in despair at the child's feet." In the world both know, the more powerful must domineer, and the weaker must submit. Living by this simple rule, however, does not guarantee survival.

Crane self-published Maggie, and it is sometimes clear that his work could have benefited from an editor's counsel. For example, similes such as, "The little boy ran to the halls, shrieking like a monk in an earthquake," are ineffective and draw too much attention to themselves. Yet these stories are an amazing accomplishment of observation and writing that make Crane's premature death at age 28 even more tragic.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Dark Look at 1890s Slum Life 22 Jun 2010
By Leif E. Trondsen - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
American novelist Stephen Crane (1871-1900) is familiar to many readers due to his Civil War classic The Red Badge of Courage (1895), which is standard fare in most high school literature classes. Less familiar, however, is Crane's first novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893), written when the author was only 22 years-old. In this work, Crane chronicles the tragic descent of Maggie, the novel's young heroine, which is propelled by the pernicious effects of the hellish slum life of late nineteenth-century New York City. The author, normally described as a "naturalist," did indeed base this work on his own detailed observations as well as those of the crusading journalist and photographer Jacob Riis (author of How the Other Half Lives). Nevertheless, Crane also imbues Maggie: A Girl of the Streets with ample doses of symbolism, biblical allusions, and even melodrama. This masterful amalgamation of literary styles allowed Crane to create a harrowing but heartfelt depiction of the debilitating effect of impersonal societal forces on the individual.

This "Norton Critical Edition" of Maggie: A Girl of the Streets is richly endowed with insightful essays concerning the author and his craft. Some of these, for example, provide crucial biographical and contextual information concerning the development of Crane's social and religious views; others examine the author's usage of irony, satire, symbolism, and American naturalism in the novel. One of my favorite essays was Katherine G. Simoneaux's "Color Imagery in Crane's Maggie: A Girl of the Streets," which highlights Crane's skillful usage of color imagery to evoke a variety of emotions in the reader. I highly recommend this first-time novel by one of America's greatest authors to all aficionados of American literature, historians of the Gilded Age, or the general reader in search of a "good read."
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