Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Other Stories

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Other Stories Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How is community or comradeship portrayed and explored in these works? Provide concrete examples.

    Answer: Community overcomes the individual in these works; it can be a source of support or of condemnation. For example, the men in “The Open Boat” band together, even though they are not previously friends, to survive their ordeal. In “The Blue Hotel,” the Swede palpably feels excluded from the rest of the community; this sparks his paranoia and rage. The neighbors in “Maggie” serve as an audience of the drama that occurs, bearing witness to the Johnson family’s trials, while the family enforces community values when Maggie is banished. In “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky,” the sheriff worries about the community’s reaction to and acceptance of his marriage. The community in “The Monster” results in the estrangement of the Trescott family and Henry Johnson.

  2. 2

    What is the role of the neighbors in “Maggie”?

    Answer: The neighbors in Maggie view and comment upon the action that occurs, much like the reader can. They are like the audience at a show at a theater. Though they are not a driving force in the novella, they observe Mary Johnson’s various rants, Maggie’s ruination, and later on, her mother’s reaction to her death. The text is punctuated by the appearance of these neighbors.

  3. 3

    Is Crane more of an impressionist or a realist author? Cite examples from the text.

    Answer: Taking into account Crane’s broad oeuvre, one can see elements of both impressionism and realism. “Maggie,” for example, has been lauded for its gritty and realistic representation of life in the American slums. This is heightened by Crane’s accurate rendering of his characters’ English dialects. In such short stories as “The Open Boat,” however, Crane’s style is more impressionistic. Calling his work naturalistic might be best, but a good essay also might examine the question of what is at stake in labeling his work with such a broad term. How does it help understand particular details in the text or the various choices that Crane made as an author? How would he have interpreted the shipwreck story differently, for instance, if he had taken a perspective valuing a strong sense of individual merit in conquering nature?

  4. 4

    How does Crane address the image of the mythic West?

    Answer: Crane largely rejects the mythic notion of the West as marked by excessive violence and dramatic gunfights. This is most apparent in “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky,” with the death of the mythic West embodied by the end of Scratchy Wilson’s legacy. Likewise, the tone in “The Blue Hotel” is rather derisive of the Swede’s paranoid conception of the West as being filled with violence.

  5. 5

    What is the significance of home and family relationships in these short stories? Provide a few examples.

    Answer: Families are a significant potential source of support for Crane characters. In “Maggie,” the lack of strong familial relationships and her destructive family are decisive factors in Maggie’s demise. Though the Swede triumphs in his fight over Scully’s son, Scully enjoys the security of his family; the Swede remains an outsider. In “The Monster,” the Trescott family must band together, as they have been ostracized by their community. The last scene is simply Dr. Trescott comforting his wife as he contemplates their situation.

  6. 6

    What aspects of “Maggie” most likely made it undesirable for publication before Crane was famous?

    Answer: When he completed “Maggie,” Crane was aware that few publishers, if any, would be interested in producing his work. First of all, the subject matter was considered scandalous; life in the slums had never been depicted so vividly and realistically. Furthermore, the characters’ language and subject of prostitution were rather inflammatory for that time period. The story exposes double standards of gender, makes the poor seem almost like violent animals, and ends with a hypocritical alcoholic mother who seems to be just pretending to love a daughter who died tragically as a prostitute. Crane was telling a story with so much uncomfortable reality that it makes readers feel bad even today, and it does not seem to produce the catharsis of a good tragedy because of the distasteful way the novella ends.

  7. 7

    Contrast the portrayals of the West in “The Blue Hotel” and “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky.”

    Answer: “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” more clearly utilizes the traditional tropes of the West: a tough sheriff, a gun-toting villain, an outdoor showdown, and a minimal female presence. These tropes are revealed to be flimsy, as the sheriff’s marriage neatly destroys this myth in the one man who still enjoys it. In “The Blue Hotel,” the Swede perceives the West to feature the above tropes, too, but those who actually live in the West (the Scullys, the cowboy) reject this notion and find the Swede out of place. Ironically, the Swede does become a victim of the violence he fears, while Scratchy, who really has a couple of guns, easily abandons his aggression.

  8. 8

    How is isolation emphasized in “The Open Boat”?

    Answer: The descriptions of the sky and the ocean in “The Open Boat” emphasize the isolation of the shipwreck survivors. Furthermore, the correspondent, as he mans the boat through the night, ponders his potential fate of death. He marvels at man’s inconsequential existence in the face of nature’s vastness. He assumes all of his companions are asleep, particularly that no one else is awake to see the shark circling the boat. Later, he learns that the captain of the boat was in fact awake, but this does not change the fact that they are all isolated together in the sea.

  9. 9

    How might the central or pivotal character of “Maggie” be someone other than Maggie?

    Answer: “Maggie” features a number of prominent characters, most notably Jimmie Johnson and Mary Johnson. If we take Maggie as merely the product of her environment, we note that she is not really the one who drives the plot forward. Instead, the actions of Mary and her son shape the story, and Pete’s choices make almost all the difference for the family’s interpretation of Maggie’s morality.

  10. 10

    How does Crane’s use of dialect impact these short stories?

    Answer: Crane’s accurate representation of his characters’ dialects lends another level of realism to his stories. For example, he faithfully recreates the commonly used slang words and accents of the immigrants living in the Bowery slums in “Maggie.” As Scully grows more upset in “The Blue Hotel,” his Irish brogue becomes more apparent in his dialogue.