Written before but published after The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets offers a stark image of the underbelly of urban American life at the end of the nineteenth century. Maggie Johnson, a lovely innocent too slight to carry the weight of poverty, dreams of escaping New York’s Bowery and the casual cruelty of her alcoholic family. After her younger brother dies, she runs off with Pete, a bartender with pretensions to wealth and culture. But Pete himself is easily seduced by the seemingly sophisticated Nellie, and Maggie finds herself abandoned in the unforgiving metropolis.
Publishers feared that Crane’s portrait of brutal fathers swilling away their lives in cheap bars, drunken mothers raging at terrified children, and ruined young women walking the streets, would be more than their readers could bear. But Crane’s impressionistic style and thematic intensity won the day, and Maggiethe author’s favorite among his workshelped to shape the writers that followed him and begin the era of literary naturalism.
This edition also includes the short novel George’s Mother, plus A Night at the Millionaire’s Club,” Opium’s Varied Dreams,” When a Man Falls, a Crowd Gathers,” and several other of Crane’s masterful short stories.
Robert Tine is the author of six novels, including State of Grace and Black Market. He has written for a variety of periodicals and magazinesfrom the New York Times to Newsweek.