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MonkeyNotes-Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane
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Notes

In the brutal violence of the first chapter, Crane sets the tone for the rest of the novel. The novel is not about the boy who fights the other boys who gang up on him. It’s about his sister. In choosing to open his novel with this boy’s fight, Crane chooses to open the novel with literal violence, but more than that, with the participant’s lack of resources for aiding him. The boy’s older friend comes along and breaks up the fight, but when his father comes along later, he adds his own violence to that already being committed. This is a world in which children are brutalized. They brutalize each other because this is the only behavior they know.


The style of writing in the first chapter is a mix of styles. Crane draws from the styles of the Bible, epic poetry, romantic narrative, naturalism, melodrama, irony, and parody. For example, Jimmie is called "the little champion of Rum Alley" a line which could be from an epic narrative. A description of him--"His wan features wore a look of a tiny, insane demon"--could come out of any number of the popular melodramas being played for people of Jimmie’s class during this time. The physical descriptions of the boys and the neighborhood are naturalist ones; they have a social scientist’s tone, recording the space of the poor neighborhood. In mixing styles, Crane treats his characters as types, not as individuals. Their struggles are to be seen not as an anomaly of one neighborhood, but as a scene that is repeated in hundreds of poor neighborhoods in the United States.

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