First Short Essay Assignment for Maggie
: A Girl of the Streets, by Stephen Crane.
Due Oct, 20th.
The story Maggie
: A Girl of the Streets, is a devastating portrait of the Johnson family, particularly the siblings Jimmie and Maggie
, living in New York City’s Bowery during the late 19th century. First published by Crane himself in 1893, Maggie
offers a naturalistic portrait of lower-class life in the immigrant neighborhood of New York’s lower east side.
While I hope you enjoyed Crane’s story, what we are more interested in here is what Crane’s story tells us about the conditions of those who lived in the Bowery during the late 19th century, and, by extension, all those living in lower- and working-class urban situations during this period. To that end, your assignment is to write – using Crane’s Maggie
, and only Maggie
, as evidence for your argument – a two-to-three page essay that answers the following questions:
What are the general outlines of Crane’s story Maggie
: A Girl of the Streets? Who are the story’s main characters? What happens to them?
What are the general conditions in which the story is set? What are the conditions in which Jimmie, Maggie
, and Pete lived? In which they worked? In which they played? What were the conditions that influenced the contours of their lives?
If you were an upper-class reformer, which problems associated with lower-class life in the Bowery would you try to address? How specifically did these problems effect the characters in Maggie
? And how would you attempt to solve them?
When answering the above questions you might also keep in mind the following questions. What role did violence play? Alcohol? Religion? What role does environment play? How does the issue of class effect these characters? Ethnicity? Gender? What kinds of work is being done by these characters, or is available to them? What types of entertainment was available to these characters and how is that important?
Be sure to begin your essay with a strong thesis paragraph that tells me how you intend – specifically - to answer the questions.
You will need to provide evidence for your answers using specific information and this information needs to be footnoted using the Chicago Manual of Style format. I’ll provide a separate document on Blackboard to show you how this is to be done.
Be sure to use short essay format that I outlined in your syllabus. Papers must be typed, double-spaced, using a 10-12 inch font, with 1” margins. You must also have a cover page with your name, date, title, etc. Your name must not appear anywhere in the body of your essay.
Note that I’ve pushed back the due date of this essay. Remember too that your paper will receive a full letter deduction for every day your paper is late – no excuses!
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Alcohol use also permeates the story. Both Johnson parents are alcoholics and one sees the negative impact that alcohol abuse can have on people. However, alcohol seems to be the main focus of recreation in the Bowery. From Mr. Johnson to the kindly neighbor who offers Jimmie shelter in return for him purchasing beer for her, the lives there are consumed by the desire for drink. Pete, whom Maggie views as a hero, is a bartender. When Maggie is forced out of the family home, she and Pete are shown socializing in a series of progressively seedier bars.
If I had been an upper-class reformer of the time period, I do not think I would have tried to address all of the problems associated with lower-class life in the Bowery. They were simply too numerous to effectively tackle. Therefore, I think I would have concentrated on tackling the problems with alcoholism. In fact, this novel helped me understand why people favored Prohibition. The children in the neighborhood would never be able to stop their violence as long as they continued to witness it in their homes, and ending the violence in the homes would be impossible as long as people were chemically altered. Deeper problems, like sexism, would have permeated all levels of society, so that if I were an upper-class reformer of the time, I probably would not have had an objective perspective of those problems.
Stephen Crane, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1896), 9.