Crane uses Maggie: A Girl of the Streets to teach us a little lesson about the bleakness of nineteenth-century tenement life. He really does his darndest to make sure readers understand that once you are born into the tenements, there's really no hope for anything better in life. Nada. Zip. Zilch. And guess what? Rough as it most definitely is to be a man in this society, it's even rougher to be a woman. And in case you somehow miss this as the story unfolds, Crane makes good and sure you get it by having Maggie die in the end.
Questions About Society and Class
What does Maggie suggest about upward mobility in nineteenth-century New York?
Is there anything sentimental about life in the lower classes? If yes, what? If no, what does this tell you?
What do you think Crane believes is the purpose of the naturalist novel?
Is Crane's depiction of society and class too literal? Is it melodramatic in some ways? Give examples from the text to support your answer.
Chew on This
Though Maggie starts out at the bottom of the social heap, the only direction she can head is down.
In a perverse twist, the class of people whom Crane writes about in this book would likely never be able to read his tale.