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MonkeyNotes-Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane
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Notes

This scene of domestic violence is written with all the glare of melodrama. The language is so loaded with pathos that it depicts the scene as surreal (nightmarish). The building "quivers and creaks from the weight of humanity stamping about in its bowels." The urban landscape of New York’s tenement slums is not rendered realistically, but surrealistically. It is worse than any reality any of Crane’s readers would ever have envisioned. Therefore, he renders it like one of their nightmares. Every inch of space is loaded with horror. Even the kitchen sink is an "unholy sink." The doorways are "gruesome doorways." The halls are "cold, gloomy halls."


In this physical space loaded with horror, the people are even worse. Crane establishes the child’s point of view with the first scene of the novel. As readers, we keep our focus on the children, and are horrified by the neglect and abuse that is heaped on them by their parents. Mary, the mother, is drawn in the most lurid lines. She is red-faced from alcoholism, she is huge and violent in every movement. In Mary, Crane draws a horrified caricature of the nineteenth century’s sanctified image of the wife and mother. In her fight with her husband, "the woman was victor." Almost more horrifying than her vicious violence is her maudlin moaning after her husband has gone as she complains to her children of her husband and her sad life.

The chapter ends with some relief. Jimmie finds a haven in an old woman’s apartment down the hall.

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