Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Other New York Writings

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This harrowing tale of a young girl in the slums is a searing portrayal of turn-of-the-century New York, and Stephen Crane's most innovative work. Published in 1893, when the author was just twenty-one, it broke new ground with its vivid characters, its brutal naturalism, and its empathic rendering of the lives of the poor. It remains both powerful, severe, and harshly comic (in Alfred Kazin's words) and a masterpiece of modern American prose.

This edition includes Maggie and ...

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Maggie, a Girl of the Streets and Other New York Writings

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This harrowing tale of a young girl in the slums is a searing portrayal of turn-of-the-century New York, and Stephen Crane's most innovative work. Published in 1893, when the author was just twenty-one, it broke new ground with its vivid characters, its brutal naturalism, and its empathic rendering of the lives of the poor. It remains both powerful, severe, and harshly comic (in Alfred Kazin's words) and a masterpiece of modern American prose.

This edition includes Maggie and George's Mother, Crane's other Bowery tales, and the most comprehensive available selection of Crane's New York journalism. All texts in this volume are presented in their definitive versions.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"He was the first American writer because he was the first to be passionately interested in the life that surrounded him and the life that surrounded him was that of America."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375756894
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/13/2001
  • Series: Modern Library Classics Series
  • Edition description: MODERN LIB
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 690,576
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.95 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Luc Sante is the author of Low Life, Evidence, and The Factory of Facts. He teaches at Bard College and lives in New York.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

A very little boy stood upon a heap of gravel for the honor of Rum Alley.

He was throwing stones at howling urchins from Devil's Row who were circling madly about the heap and pelting at him.

His infantile countenance was livid with fury. His small body was writhing in the delivery of great, crimson oaths.

"Run, Jimmie, run! Dey'll get yehs," screamed a retreating Rum Alley child.

"Naw," responded Jimmie with a valiant roar, "dese micks can't make me run."

Howls of renewed wrath went up from Devil's Row throats. Tattered gamins on the right made a furious assault on the gravel heap. On their small, convulsed faces there shone the grins of true assassins. As they charged, they threw stones and cursed in shrill chorus.

The little champion of Rum Alley stumbled precipitately down the other side. His coat had been torn to shreds in a scuffle, and his hat was gone. He had bruises on twenty parts of his body, and blood was dripping from a cut in his head. His wan features wore a look of a tiny, insane demon.

On the ground, children from Devil's Row closed in on their antagonist. He crooked his left arm defensively about his head and fought with cursing fury. The little boys ran to and fro, dodging, hurling stones and swearing in barbaric trebles.

From a window of an apartment house that upreared its form from amid squat, ignorant stables, there leaned a curious woman. Some laborers, unloading a scow at a dock at the river, paused for a moment and regarded the fight. The engineer of a passive tugboat hung lazily to a railing and watched. Over on the Island, a worm of yellow convicts came from the shadow of a grey ominous building and crawled slowly along the river's bank.

A stone had smashed into Jimmie's mouth. Blood was bubbling over his chin and down upon his ragged shirt. Tears made furrows on his dirt-stained cheeks. His thin legs had begun to tremble and turn weak, causing his small body to reel. His roaring curses of the first part of the fight had changed to a blasphemous chatter.

In the yells of the whirling mob of Devil's Row children there were notes of joy like songs of triumphant savagery. The little boys seemed to leer gloatingly at the blood upon the other child's face.

Down the avenue came boastfully sauntering a lad of sixteen years, although the chronic sneer of an ideal manhood already sat upon his lips. His hat was tipped with an air of challenge over his eye. Between his teeth, a cigar stump was tilted at the angle of defiance. He walked with a certain swing of the shoulders which appalled the timid. He glanced over into the vacant lot in which the little raving boys from Devil's Row seethed about the shrieking and tearful child from Rum Alley.

"Gee!" he murmured with interest, "A scrap. Gee!"

He strode over to the cursing circle, swinging his shoulders in a manner which denoted that he held victory in his fists. He approached at the back of one of the most deeply engaged of the Devil's Row children.

"Ah, what deh hell," he said, and smote the deeply-engaged one on the back of the head. The little boy fell to the ground and gave a hoarse, tremendous howl.

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Table of Contents

Biographical Note
Maggie, a Girl of the Streets 1
George's Mother 71
New York Tales and Sketches
A Great Mistake 131
An Ominous Baby 134
A Dark-Brown Dog 138
The Broken-Down Van 145
An Experiment in Misery 152
An Experiment in Luxury 165
Mr. Binks' Day Off 174
Stories Told by an Artist 183
The Men in the Storm 192
Coney Island's Failing Days 200
The Fire 207
When Man Falls, a Crowd Gathers 214
New York's Bicycle Speedway 219
An Eloquence of Grief 223
In the Tenderloin: A Duel Between an Alarm Clock and a Suicidal Purpose 226
The "Tenderloin" As It Really Is 230
In the "Tenderloin" 236
Stephen Crane in Minetta Lane 240
Adventures of a Novelist 248
Note on the Text 255
Commentary 257
Discussion Guide 265
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Reading Group Guide

1. Taking the writings in this volume together, discuss the picture of slum life in turn-of-the-century New York that Crane gives us. What are some of its defining features? How is poverty reflected in the lives of Bowery dwellers?

2. Reflect on the continuities and differences between the characters in Crane’s two Bowery Tales, “Maggie” and “George’s Mother.” For instance, how does Jimmie compare to George Kelcey?

3. How does “Maggie, a Girl of the Streets” speak to the constraints imposed by gender conventions? What choices are available to Maggie? Why does she go with Pete? Why is she driven from her mother’s house?

4. Alcohol figures centrally in Crane’s depiction of poverty and “low life,” from the status that accrues to Pete because of his job as bartender, to the powerful hold of alcohol over the lives of the poor in general. Discuss Crane’s depiction of alcohol in his New York writings.

5. Critics have praised Crane’s style-especially in “Maggie, a Girl of the Streets,” with its stark, minimal style-as breaking with nineteenth-century literary conventions, and in many ways anticipating major features of subsequent American writing. What makes Crane’s writing unique and innovative?

6. In his emphasis on the realistic depiction of the inexorable effects of outside forces-social and natural-on the lives and destinies of individual characters, Crane is often described as a literary naturalist. Is this an apt description? Discuss naturalism in relation to Crane’s New York writings, and the relationship of Crane’s work to that of other writers (like Dreiser and Norris) usually associated with the term.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 11, 2013

    Highly recommend

    A period book with several stories written about the Victorian Era ife of the average lower class in London. Strong prose written in the style of the time period......a shocking expose of life at the bottom rung of society. Good historical read.....the author very descriptive. I became quite educated as to the day to day happenings, and found it remarkable that the author had actually been raised in this atmosphere and become a published writer at the time, having written of things he must have seen on a daily basis in his youth. A must read for those who seek the unabashed whitewashing subject matter here.

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