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

Crane plots Maggie: A Girl of the Streets on a series of locations. It begins in the streets with Jimmie’s first street fight. The family walks home to their tenement building where Crane describes the first in a series of wretched family scenes. Crane continues in the rest of the novel to alternate between street scenes and interior scenes. The two primary interior spaces used are the Johnson apartment and the music halls. In alternating between these two spaces, Crane demonstrates the connection between the private and the public value systems.

In the music halls, the popular form of entertainment is the melodrama. The heroine is a simpering and passive beauty who would wilt away and die if it were not for a dashing hero to come and rescue her. The setting begins in the poverty stricken slums of the city and ends in the placid fields of a country estate. The bad guy is always vanquished fully and irredeemably. The good guys always get much more that they had ever wished for.


The contrast between the world of melodrama and the interior of the Johnson home is so stark that the reader is brought to the point of questioning the role of melodrama in the misery of people like the Johnsons. If they were not being continually inculcated in the moralistic and yet empty values of the melodrama, perhaps people like the Johnsons would be able to look around and see the misery of their situation. Popular forms like the melodrama, Crane suggests, keep people like the Johnsons from examining critically their situation in life. It keeps them from sticking together and taking care of each other. It makes them care more about the outer forms than the substance that should be behind those forms. It makes people believe that misery is justly deserved and profit is as well.

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