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MonkeyNotes-Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane
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Mrs. Johnson is also one of the main conduits through which Crane advances his second theme the affect of popular entertainment on the morality of poor people. Mrs. Johnson is fully aware of the ideology of true womanhood; she plays on it to win favor with judges when she is brought up on public drunkenness charges. She uses the story of Maggie’s downfall for the same purpose. Before Crane shows Mrs. Johnson’s use of this ideology, he takes the reader to one of its primary sources, the entertainment industry, especially melodrama. For Crane, the morality of melodrama dominates the morality of his age. People prefer to attribute the destitution and suffering of thousands of people to personal moral failings instead of looking at the social and economic institutions which make their suffering predictable and inevitable. In the three hall scenes, Crane shows the connection between the sentimental treatment of social relations and the real-life playing out of social relations in the relationship between Maggie and Pete. Maggie enjoys a very brief time of power, the time between meeting Pete and having sex with him. Before that time, Maggie is totally powerless in her home and after that time, she is totally powerless in her dependence on Pete. Yet, Maggie more than any other character is enraptured by the scenes of moral uplift in the melodramas she watches at the music halls. The failure of that vision for sustaining her is the greatest argument of the novel for condemning a kind of morality which would stand by and condemn a powerless person who is controlled by her social and economic position.

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