Maggie, a girl of the streets, and other tales of New York /

by Crane, Stephen; Ziff, Larzer; Davis, Theo.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookSeries: Penguin classics. Publisher: New York : Penguin Books, 2000Description: xxix, 239 p. : ill. ; 20 cm.ISBN: 0140437975 :.Title notes: $8.95 prolam 4-2002Subject(s): City and town life -- New York (State) -- New York -- Fiction | New York (N.Y.) -- Fiction
Maggie -- George's mother -- The broken-down van -- An ominous baby -- A great mistake -- A dark-brown dog -- An experiment in misery -- An experiment in luxury -- Mr. Binks' day off -- The men in the storm -- When man falls, a crowd gathers -- An eloquence of grief -- Adventures of a novelist.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

This unflinching portrayal of the squalor and brutality of New York life produced a scandal when it was published in 1893. Crane's novel tells the story of Maggie Johnson, a young woman who, seduced by her brother's friend and then disowned by her family, turns to prostitution. More than the tale of a young woman's tragic fall, this is a powerful exploration of the destructive forces underlying urban society and human nature. Also included here is 'George's Mother', along with eleven other tales and sketches of New York written between 1892 and 1896.

Includes bibliographical references (p. xxvii-xxviii).

Maggie -- George's mother -- The broken-down van -- An ominous baby -- A great mistake -- A dark-brown dog -- An experiment in misery -- An experiment in luxury -- Mr. Binks' day off -- The men in the storm -- When man falls, a crowd gathers -- An eloquence of grief -- Adventures of a novelist.

$8.95 prolam 4-2002

Excerpt provided by Syndetics

<opt> <anon I1="BLANK" I2="BLANK">PENGUIN CLASSICS MAGGIE: A GIRL OF THE STREETS AND OTHER TALES OF NEW YORK Stephen Crane (1871–1900) was born in Newark, New Jersey, the youngest in a family of fourteen children. His father was a prominent Methodist minister and his mother, niece of a Methodist bishop, was a leading churchwoman. After brief attendances at Lafayette College and then Syracuse University Crane joined his brother’s news agency in New Jersey and, while continuing to pursue freelance journalism, drifted into the bohemia of lower Manhattan. His first novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893) failed to find a reading public but was enthusiastically received by Hamlin Garland and William Dean Howells, who encouraged his literary career. With his next novel, The Red Badge of Courage (1895), he became an instant, international celebrity. As a journalist Crane reported from the American West, Mexico, Greece, and Cuba, as well as New York, and also converted a number of his experiences into fiction. The stories and sketches he wrote following the composition of The Red Badge of Courage are among the finest short works in all of American literature. In 1899 Crane and his wife, Cora, settled in England where his tubercular condition was aggravated by the relentless work schedule he undertook in order to meet his debts. He died in a sanitarium in Germany in June 1900. Larzer Ziff is the author of a number of books on American literary culture, among them The American 1890s , winner of the Christian Gauss Award. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is Research Professor of English at The Johns Hopkins University. MAGGIE: A GIRL OF THE STREETS AND OTHER TALES OF NEW YORK STEPHEN CRANE EDITED WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY LARZER ZIFF WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF THEO DAVIS Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (A Story of New York) (1893) INTRODUCTION: STEPHEN CRANE’S NEW YORK Stephen Crane’s characteristic literary form was the brief, vivid, self-contained unit. Even his novels, short as they are, are made up of a series of sharply realized episodes, each of which is almost a complete story in itself. Unlike his contemporary Frank Norris, he did not seek to spread his characters and actions across a broad panorama in pursuit of the effects of epic, nor, like another contemporary, Theodore Dreiser, did he seek to build his fictive worlds through the inexorable massing of the sticks and stones of life. We find Norris’s California or Dreiser’s Chicago in their large novels, but Stephen Crane’s New York comes to us in two short novels, Maggie and George’s Mother , and in a wealth of short pieces—stories, sketches, reports—that he wrote before he and that city came to an unamiable parting of the ways in 1896. This edition offers Crane’s New York through a reprinting of the two so-called Bowery novels and a selection from the range of brilliant, sharply incised sketches and stories he wrote for newspapers and magazines in 1892–94, the artistically fertile years of his hectic residence in a hectic city. It concludes with his 1896 newspaper report of the conflict that led to his departure from the city in that year. As if in anticipation of the early death that claimed him in 1900 before his twenty-ninth birthday, Stephen Crane was always in a hurry. Yet his sense of urgency rarely led to careless writing. Rather it propelled a style in which selected images and swiftly drawn episodes are made to yield effects that had more conventionally been elicited through extended plotting. Before Crane, novels set in New York presented that city as quantitatively different from the villages, towns, and other cities of nineteenth-century America. More people lived there than anywhere else, but those people were portrayed as maintaining pretty much the same patterns of behavior that informed American life prior to the rise of large cities. Crane’s New York pieces, however, are like the colored fragments of a kaleidoscope that when placed in juxtaposition reveal a completely new picture. Quantitative difference has resulted in qualitative difference. To live in New York, acutely alone yet always a member of a crowd, is to develop a sense of self and acquire a standard of conduct distinctly different from any previous models. Collectively, Crane’s New York works usher into the national literature the twentieth-century American metropolis as a unique environment that shapes a new kind of person. *   *   * Nineteen-year-old Stephen Crane entered Lafayette College in September 1890 and within three months accumulated a sufficient number of “academic deficiencies” to necessitate his withdrawal. Shortly thereafter, however, he managed to gain entrance to Syracuse University as a special student—perhaps because his mother’s uncle, Bishop Jesse Truesdell Peck, had been one of its founders—but his stay there was also short-lived. Crane expended a good deal of energy playing for the university’s baseball team (as catcher and shortstop) and received an A in English literature. But he failed all other subjects and when the summer recess arrived he departed for Asbury Park, New Jersey, where his widowed mother lived, never to return. While at Syracuse, Crane had written stories and sketches and served as a stringer for the New York Tribune . He continued to experiment with stories and sketches when in Asbury Park in the summer of 1891 he began a full-time career as a freelance writer, supplying reports about summer-season activities on the Jersey Shore to the Tribune and other newspapers. Among these summer projects was further work on Maggie , a version of which had been begun at Syracuse in the spring. College friends later recalled that while there Crane had frequented the night police courts, talked with street people, and spent social hours in music halls where, in their words, “daringly clad girls” danced and sang. It is clear that before he had ever visited the streets of New York he had already envisaged Maggie and begun accumulating material for it, a procedure that would be characteristic of his later literary practice as well. Typically, he made his forays into life—conducted his research, as it were—in order to find details that would support what he already had envisioned rather than to gather experiences upon which he could then exercise his imagination. His great Civil War novel, for example, which rendered with precision what it was like to be under fire, was written before he had ever witnessed a military engagement; it was the novel itself that led him to seek out a war he could observe. Crane’s imagination was always in advance of his experience, and in the sometimes exaggerated luridness of its details Maggie bears this mark of being a fiction projected upon the screen of life by an incandescent imagination rather than a narrative of experienced life passed through its lens. In 1892 Crane began making visits to New York’s Bowery from his residence in New Jersey, and then in October of that year he moved to New York, worked on a revision of his novel, and began life in the series of apartments and studios in lower Manhattan that he shared with fellow bohemians from 1892 to 1894. Early in 1893, Maggie was published at Crane’s own expense by a small print shop on New York’s Sixth Avenue. Below the title on the book’s mustard-yellow cover were two subtitles, “A Girl of the Streets,” and “(A Story of New York).” The cover also proclaimed that the price was fifty cents and the author was Johnston Smith. “Commonest name I could think of,” Crane told a friend. “I had an editor named Johnson and put in the ‘t,’ and no one could find me in the mob of Smiths.” Apparently almost no one found the small book either. Of the 1,100 copies printed Crane kept one for himself and gave away about 100 others. The rest served for kindling in whatever New York apartment or studio he was at the moment sharing with fellow artists in the impecunious days following the book’s publication. Today a surviving copy of Maggie is among the rarest and costliest of first editions of modern American literature. It has been conjectured that Crane used a pseudonym—sought to get lost among the Smiths—because as a young author who was yet to find a public he was cautious about immediately identifying himself with a work that he himself regarded as shocking in its implication that its heroine was driven to prostitution by her circumstances rather than drawn to it because of an inherently sinful nature. In the closing decades of the nineteenth century New York’s wealthier citizens, taking alarm at the size and condition of the city’s “other half,” as reformer Jacob Riis labeled the distressed classes, had launched a number of moral reform agencies, the most prominent of which adhered to the belief that poverty was caused by laziness and a life of prostitution was willingly chosen by depraved women too shiftless to seek more honest means of earning money. A strong distinction was drawn between the deserving poor and those who were inherently degraded, and assistance was firmly withheld from all whom the reformers in their wisdom chose to assign to the latter category. In Maggie Crane scorned the distinction, not by polemically attacking it but by ignoring it, representing a reality that bore no relation whatsoever to the platitudes advanced by the legions of moral righteousness. Another significant branch of reform, however, centered on the need to improve the social conditions that led to degradation rather than to punish the victims of poverty and vice. In 1886, running for the office of mayor of New York, the reformer Henry George had asked in a campaign speech what it was that “forces girls upon the streets and our boys into grog shops and penitentiaries.” Maggie is very much about what it is that forces girls upon the streets, and Crane’s later work, George’s Mother , is concerned with what it is that forces boys into the grog shop. In outline, Maggie’s story is one that was told often by concerned observers. A month before the publication of Maggie , an article in the Arena , a magazine to which Crane later contributed pieces such as “An Ominous Baby,” ran an article entitled “The Woes of the New York Working Girl” that spoke of young women “dragging themselves from dirty, vermin-thronged beds at five in the morning, being blackguarded and beaten by drunken parents, being tempted by rakes whose very lust seems a haven of refuge to them.” And of course the seduction and abandonment that terminate in the death of the heroine is a novelistic theme almost as old as the novel itself. The manner in which Crane tells the familiar tale, however, is entirely original and so electrically revivifies the well-known structure of oppressive circumstances, seductive charms, heartless abandonment, prostitution, and death that it becomes a story never told before. Although the plot of Maggie advances chronologically from chapter to chapter, it unfolds in distinct scenes, none of which necessarily follows from the preceding. Each unit stands by itself, its integrity further emphasized by Crane’s at times beginning a chapter away from his central characters before bringing them into focus—as if, at the outset, we might be dealing with another cast of characters than those whom we already know. Consider the following sets of consecutive sentences. “Maggie’s red mother, stretched on the floor, blasphemed and gave her daughter a bad name. An orchestra of yellow silk women and bald-headed men on an elevated stage near the centre of a great green-hued hall, played a popular waltz.” And: “She wondered if the culture and refinement she had seen imitated, perhaps grotesquely, by the heroine on the stage, could be acquired by a girl who lived in a tenement house and worked in a shirt factory. A group of urchins were intent upon the side door of a saloon.” The first set ends Chapter VI and begins VII; the second ends Chapter VIII and begins IX. The consecutive sentences of each set contrast sharply in that the location of the action is abruptly changed but also because in the change of scene we lose sight of the characters we have thus far been following and must wait to relocate them in the new setting. So, for example, the scene in the entertainment saloon is set before Maggie and Pete are placed in it rather than after we follow them into it. In cinematic terms, Crane pans the hall before focusing on his actors, and this opening contrasts in focus as well as content with the sharply realized figure of the “red mother” stretched on the floor with which the previous scene closed. In the second set, the first sentence is concerned with interiority, with the wistful movement of Maggie’s thought, while the second sentence is decidedly exterior, a street scene outside a door. Objectivity contrasts with subjectivity, and as the new scene unfolds we must again wait a moment before an unnamed character emerges from the saloon. We must hesitate yet a second or two more before we recognize her as Maggie’s mother. Such interrupted continuities evoke a world that is larger than and overshadows the lives of the characters. They are, to be sure, at the center of our attention, but their brief appearances occur between briefer disappearances. They are constantly framed by shifting scenery that leads us time and again to reapproach them after temporarily losing sight of them in the city. Although Maggie is certainly the heroine of this little drama, she does not take the stage more frequently than the others, which further contributes to the sense that this is indeed, as the subtitle insists, a story of New York. But, after observing the apparent contrasts within the sets of sentences, we note also underlying coherence. In the first set of sentences, most obviously it is the color register of red, yellow, and green that binds the scenes together. The red of Maggie’s mother is the emblem of her violently destructive dissolution. The yellow silk of the women in the orchestra is less menacing, even perhaps wanly cheerful, and yet in conjunction with the bald-headed men the yellow also suggests that the waltz in the green-hued hall is but a temporary stay against inevitable decay. And although Maggie’s shy wondering as to whether a girl in her circumstances could ever attain the culture and refinement she saw grotesquely imitated in the melodrama she attended contrasts strongly with the urchins outside the door, the two are continuous as well. The urchins also have gathered to attend a drama, one of real life that answers the question Maggie has just asked herself with a decisive negative. Throughout Maggie , Crane works against the conventions of realism—the representation of precisely realized details that accumulate into a persuasive model of the actual world—even while in good part abiding by them. His gift was for incisive brevity rather than for the irresistible solidity of detail that constitutes the represented world of an author such as Dreiser. In consequence he had to achieve his effects swiftly, by taking even common details and pushing them over the edge of realism into that of expression: a “careening building,” a “hilarious hall,” “squat and ignorant stables.” We recognize that there is not enough furniture in the Johnson household for the family members to keep up the demolition Crane assigns to them but we also recognize the truth of their lives that the destruction is meant to express, although the excess may somewhat detract from the intended effect. In Chapter XVII, however, Crane’s technique of moving actualizing details from the particulars of a realistic scene onto the level of expressive truth is frictionless: the effect is extraordinary. As Maggie walks from the well-lit theater district through the darkening streets of the factory district to the oily, lapping waters of the river, each particular of the scene emerges with a striking clarity. Yet for all the convincing substantiality of the details, we recognize that her stroll is not a single evening’s walk but the progress of her entire career as a prostitute. At the outset she has a “handsome cloak” and “well-shod” feet, indications of a woman successful at her profession, but as she moves from one encounter to the next, she progresses downward in the attractiveness of her partners—would-be partners on the particular night but actual partners in a downward career. This descent in effect speaks of her own deteriorating condition, until the torn and greasy garments of the abhorrent figure she encounters at the end suggest not only what her own fine clothing will eventually come to, but indeed the condition she has finally reached in her career of prostitution. The features of this final apparition suggest venereal disease, and it is significant that he does not, on one hand, pass her by, as did the men of her earlier encounters, nor, on the other, engage her as would a client. Rather, “chuckling and leering” he follows her—a specter of drink, filth, and disease, less “realistic” yet more expressive than the men earlier depicted—and tracks her to her end at an “impossible distance” from the glittering avenues of her beginning. The city that constrained individuality as it framed the preceding scenes here finally annihilates it. In her last appearance, Maggie has become nameless: a “girl of the crimson legions.” In the spring of 1893, a half year after the publication of Maggie , Crane began writing The Red Badge of Courage . It was first published in abbreviated serial form in 1894 and then in its entirety in book form in 1895. Its success was sensational, and in the following year, capitalizing upon the novel’s great popularity and its author’s widespread fame, the publishing house of Appleton eagerly published a slightly revised version of Maggie , now identified as by Stephen Crane, the author of The Red Badge of Courage . But back in 1893 the seven hundred dollars Crane spent to have Maggie published (he was later to say that the publishers, a firm of religious and medical printers, “did me dirt”) was the entirety of the inheritance left him by his mother, who had died in the previous year. Daughter of a well-known Methodist minister, Mary Helen Peck had married another eminent Methodist minister, the Reverend Jonathan Townley Crane, with whom she had fourteen children. Stephen, born in 1871, was the youngest. His father died when Stephen was nine. A devout Christian throughout her life, Mary Helen Crane was busy in church activities, headed the Asbury Park chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (an organization in which Crane was to enroll George’s mother) and contributed paid work to Methodist journals. In addition to the investments he sold in order to pay for Maggie , Crane’s literary talent also may well have been an inheritance from his mother. But beginning with Maggie and continuing throughout his brief and spectacular career, Crane satirized what he saw as conventional Christianity’s disconnection from the world he and his characters inhabited: Jimmie attends service in a mission church only to have the preacher distance himself from his auditors while assuring them they are damned; in her distress, Maggie, who “had heard of the Grace of God,” timidly accosts a minister on the street who “gave a convulsive movement and saved his respectability by a vigorous side-step”; and in the novel’s final scene, Maggie’s mother’s behavior parodies the rhetoric of Christian forgiveness. Banal as it is, stage melodrama with its assurance that the rich are scoundrels who will fall before the uprightness of the virtuous poor parallels the teachings of religion in Crane’s world, both hypocritically denying the reality of exploited lives by assuring the distressed classes that they are essentially better off than their exploiters. George’s Mother is more conventional in its narrative form than is Maggie . The principal characters are kept in focus and followed from chapter to chapter rather than approached through a series of city scenes, and the plot seems generated by their willed acts rather than by the force of circumstances. Whereas Maggie can justifiably be called “A Story of New York” and Maggie’s individuality finally dissolves into “a girl of the streets,” George’s Mother is pretty much the story of what happened to these particular characters, or, as William Dean Howells phrased it, “It is the study of a situation merely: a poor inadequate woman, of a commonplace religiosity, whose son goes to the bad.” Maggie’s fall occurs at the novel’s midpoint, between chapters IX and X rather than within any chapter, emphasizing Crane’s view that what is at issue is not the alleged sinfulness of her act but its cause and its consequence: Chapter IX ends, “‘Go teh hell an’ good riddance.’ / She went.”; and X begins, “Jimmie had an idea it wasn’t common courtesy for a friend to come to one’s home and ruin one’s sister.” Kelcey’s corresponding fall into alcohol also occurs at the midpoint of George’s Mother , but it is fully rendered in three chapters—VIII, IX, and X—that follow the continuous events of Bleecker’s party from beginning to end. The difference between Crane’s treatment of these two falls, each centrally located, epitomizes his changed narrative technique. If George’s Mother appears to be the more conventional work, it is, nonetheless, a work well worth reading. To quote Howells again, “The wonder of it is the courage which deals with persons so absolutely average, and the art that graces them with the beauty of the author’s compassion for everything that errs and suffers.” Crane’s irony beats back the sentimental and the maudlin readings that the situation of Mrs. Kelcey and her errant son would seem to invite, but it is not deployed to wither them. Rather, Crane fixes them in a clear-eyed gaze that invites sympathetic comprehension of their bewilderments. They are country people, in the city but not of it, each viewing it as a great theater of sin. For George’s mother, this leads to a fearful retreat behind the banal beliefs she brought with her from the country. For George, the sinful city is a mystery he longs somehow to enter into, but his desire to lose country habits and learn city ways is, finally, more pathetic than his mother’s narrow-minded fearfulness: “The saloons contained the mystery of a street for him. When he knew its saloons he comprehended the street.” His aspiration goes no higher and he therefore sinks. With an understated irony that amounts to a joke to be shared only with the reader who has also read Maggie , Crane wryly makes Maggie the immediate, albeit unconscious, cause of George’s downfall, even as Pete was the conscious cause of hers. Maggie Johnson, whom George sees on the stairs of the tenement house in which they both live, becomes the object of his desire and the subject of his fantasies, yet in his awkward self-consciousness he finds no way of approaching her. (“Say, Mag, I’m stuck on yer shape,” is the way that city-smart Pete initiated his approach.) Terrified by the possibility of rejection and the consequent collapse of his fantasy world, George hesitates, awaiting some dreamed-of moment when a disaster will require him to rescue Maggie and win her adoring love, until one day he sees the dapper Pete call upon Maggie, and with this glimpse of the well-dressed, fast-talking Pete his sense of his own inadequacies overwhelms him. “There came over him all the self-pity that comes when the soul is turned back from a road,” and his career as a drinking companion commences. *   *   * Although not published until 1896, George’s Mother was written shortly after Maggie was published. In that same period of his New York residence (1892–94) Crane wrote most of his striking stories and sketches of the city. Maggie’s little brother Tommie, dead before the end of the novel, is resurrected in three of them, “An Ominous Baby,” “A Great Mistake,” and “A Dark-Brown Dog,” and almost all the other short works of the period are also concerned with life in the Bowery, a district that in Crane’s day was becoming synonymous with poverty and the attendant vices of filth, drink, crime, and degradation. A financial panic in 1893 had initiated five years of severe depression and massive unemployment with some twenty thousand homeless as well as jobless. “People piled up in parks and squares, in the Salvation Army Hall, on Blackwell’s Island, and in Bowery lodging houses.”* This was Crane’s turf, and he strode across it with a will. The three Tommie stories were written immediately after the publication of Maggie , although they were not then published. James B. Colvert observes that the “young child as pure ego, as candid and unabashed aggressor” appealed to Crane because it represented “primitive forces in nature powerfully resistant to constraints of human laws and conventions.” In his inexperience, Tommie, the “baby,” knows no reason why his will should not be served—save his awareness that those with superior physical force will attempt to thwart him in the service of their own desires. No higher principles govern in Tommie’s world. Although his struggles are clothed in the diction of revolt against property and against religion, both institutions are as predatory as he. In “An Ominous Baby,” Tommie makes off with the toy he has wrested from the wealthy child and then weeps “with the air of a wronged one who has at last succeeded in achieving his rights.” In “A Great Mistake” the boy’s eyes are raised to the vendor’s face “with deep respect, worship, as if he saw omnipotence,” and a biblical phrase introduces the godlike vendor’s detection of the theft of the forbidden fruit: “And it was written that the Italian should at this moment open his eyes.” To note this, however, is not to contend that Crane is explicitly parodying the Bible in that story nor that he is mounting an explicit social criticism in the previous story. He was not, in the usual sense of the phrase, an author of “social protest” but rather was concerned with conveying the elemental forces that for him were truly at work behind the facade of social and religious regulations. The child too young to receive the world as other than a series of desires was his vehicle. As Keith Gandal has suggested, Crane was an ethnographer of slum life, not a moralist. A newly emerging popular art was soon to reveal how remarkably prescient was Crane’s use of the child, a conventional symbol of innocent virtue, as the epitome of anarchic force. On February 6, 1896, Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World published a picture that historians of the genre today recognize as the first newspaper comic strip. Its hero, the “Yellow Kid,” was a boy who always dressed in a long nightgown, thereby emphasizing his infancy even as the jug-handled ears protruding from his bald head and the worldly-wise leer on his lips hinted at a cunning beyond his years. His speech was conveyed by words printed on his nightgown and it was in the same register of slang as that of Crane’s Bowery inhabitants. Yellow-haired Tommie asks the affluent child “Is dat yours?” The Yellow Kid says things such as “Dis gang tinks dey kin queer me but wait an see.” The Yellow Kid is depicted time and again in one or another violent act against either authority or convention, upending well-dressed citizens, dismaying policemen, and scattering bystanders. He became so sensational a popular favorite that William Randolph Hearst hired its creator, Richard Felton Outcault, away from the World to his New York Journal , which led Pulitzer in turn to employ another artist to continue the cartoon in the World . There were thus two Yellow Kids running against each other in the competing newspapers—a phenomenon that gave rise to the term “yellow journalism.” In a period of severe economic depression, the Kid converted mass resentment of authority into laughter by running off with a horseless carriage, the vehicle of the rich, or, with ludicrous inappropriateness, appearing on the golf links. (“I am playin dis game and I dont want no fresh mug te gimme tips SEE.”) The similarities he shares with Tommie illustrate how perceptive were Crane’s journalistic instincts. But the dissimilarities illustrate the difference between mass entertainment and literary artistry. In a time of severe economic depression, the Kid finally acts as a safety valve, draining the dispossessed’s outrage at the conspicuous luxuries of the privileged into laughter at the amusing spectacle of one of their own discomfiting the stuffed shirts. But the Tommie stories convey a terrible truth made all the more appalling by the fact that it is not a truth conventionally said to emerge from the mouth of babes. Although Crane’s New York pieces were printed in newspapers—many of the best as feature articles in the Sunday editions of the New York Press during the spring and summer of 1894—they were not a reporter’s stenographic accounts of witnessed events but sketches of street life that moved halfway toward fiction in their concern with atmosphere and their attention to impressions; the reactions of the narrators or other spectators to depicted incidents are characteristically of an importance equal to that of the incident itself. “The Broken-Down Van,” written for the Tribune in 1892, is an experiment in description in which the drama of the breakdown is made to organize the larger street scene, with the residents of the East Side—sweatshop employees, policemen, beer-toting children, an ogling barber—passing to and fro across the stage in a manner to suggest the way in which the pace and clamor of their streets shape the quality of their lives. The American literary tradition of local color that emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century was primarily concerned with the unique, folkloric relationship existing between inhabitants and landscape in one or another provincial region of the United States—Bret Harte’s California or Sarah Orne Jewett’s Maine, for example. Crane, in sketches such as “The Broken-Down Van,” carried this subgenre into the city, where it had rarely been situated before, depicting the distinctive folkways that had arisen to meet the demands of the urban environment together with the slang that was the city’s very own lexicon. “When Man Falls, a Crowd Gathers” is perhaps the most telling of the local-color pieces in the breathtaking economy with which Crane captures the sense of the city as the site of crowds and thus of anonymity, of callousness and yet of succor. It is in such pieces that he apprehends the way in which the city’s sheer quantitative difference from other human sites, a place where thousands upon thousands move past one another with streams converging into crowds, results in a qualitative difference, a place where life is conducted differently. Here Crane begins to move past New York itself into a study of the nature of urbanism and the patterns of behavior destined to replace those that had been nurtured for centuries in the countries and the countrysides from which those who now were massed in the city were drawn. With New York as the stage of his drama, Crane organized other sketches along a narrative line, moving them closer to the boundaries of fiction than pieces such as “The Broken-Down Van” without ever quite crossing that line. The two “Experiment” pieces are concerned with social investigations into the contrasting worlds of the destitute and the wealthy. They are also experimental in a literary sense as Crane explores the way in which the meaning that eludes objective description may be rendered through making the witnessing author’s imaginings part of the depicted reality. For example, the youth spending the night in a Bowery flophouse listens to the moans and shrieks of a man lying in a corner of the cot-crowded room: To the youth these were not merely the shrieks of a vision pierced man. They were an utterance of the meaning of the room and its occupants. It was to him the protest of the wretch who feels the touch of the imperturbable granite wheels and who then cries with an impersonal eloquence, with a strength not from him, giving voice to the wail of a whole section, a class, a people. This, weaving into the young man’s brain and mingling with his views of these vast and somber shadows that like mighty black fingers curled around the naked bodies, made the young man so that he did not sleep, but lay carving biographies for these men from his meager experience. At times the fellow in the corner howled in a writhing agony of his imaginations. The “mighty black fingers” glide away from literal reality—yet this subjectivity operates strongly to reinforce the objective picture placed before the reader’s eyes even as it moves the realistically observed details onto the plane of expression. In “An Experiment in Luxury,” as in the previous sketch, accompanying and underlying the depiction of the actual scene is the author’s uncomfortable awareness of his own inadequate reaction to what he is witnessing. Spending an evening in the opulent mansion of a wealthy friend, he is disturbed at his failure truly to feel the outrage to which his knowledge of the sufferings of tens of thousands should lead him. The “mystery” of the social condition, as he phrases it, is that some sit amidst luxury and chat idly while others are being “blackened and mashed” by life in the lower places. And yet even as he recognizes this, his involuntary awe at the luxury that surrounds him exasperatingly illustrates how the “mystery” is sustained: “For what reason did his nature so deeply respect all this? . . . There was one side of him that said there were finer things in life, but the other side did homage.” He recognizes, that is, that by “nature” he is complicitous in the maintenance of what his intellect tells him is a system of massive social injustice. “The Men in the Storm” is a powerful forerunner of the naturalism of Dreiser and Steinbeck and their telling narratives of the price paid in human dignity for the economic depressions that were the dark side of the American dream. The circumstances under which Crane wrote it were pictured verbally by the artist Corwin K. Linson, a friend of Crane’s who also sketched and painted notable portraits of him. One day after a bitter night of driving snows, Linson went to the League of Art Students Building, where Crane was rooming, to find his haggard friend lying in bed. “Pulling a manuscript from under his pillow,” Linson said, “he tossed it to me.” After standing for hours with the inadequately clothed men, Crane had rushed back to write the sketch before going to sleep. Looking at Crane’s worn condition Linson asked why he had not dressed more warmly and was answered with a question, “How would I know how those poor devils felt if I was warm myself?” The story “Mr. Binks’ Day Off” is to some extent uncharacteristic of Crane’s New York period in dealing with middle-class—at least lower-middle-class—characters as well as in moving them out of the city for a day. “The sense of a city is battle,” says Crane and, far from deploring this, the Binkses find something unbearable about the calm placidity of the rural town they visit. Finally, they do lapse into an afternoon of bucolic content, but the view of the city they acquire from the vantage point of the country does not support the customary idea that man made the turbulent city while God made the tranquil country. Rather, with a Crane-like touch of irony, in the country they put aside the expressions about gold as a curse and the sneers at the rush for spoils that they indulged in the city and “In the light of their contempt for this stillness, the conflicts of the city were exalted.” The story echoes “When Man Falls” in its quiet insistence that urban values do not just contrast with rural values but are irresistibly replacing them. *   *   * In January 1895 Stephen Crane left New York for a tour of the West and Mexico, returning in April 1896 to resume his career in freelance journalism. He sold sketches of city life, such as an incident on a streetcar or a description of bicyclists speeding down Broadway, to newspaper syndicates, and, appreciating his eye for the underside of big-city life, the New York Journal commissioned him to do a series of articles on the Tenderloin. For one of these, in September 1896, he attended the Jefferson Market Court and there witnessed the hearing he described in the brilliant sketch “An Eloquence of Grief.” “People pity those who need none,” Crane wrote, “and the guilty sob alone.” The great wonder of this piece is that without explicit comment and without any emotive language, his dispassionate description of the incident—culminating in the sentence “Then it was that a great cry rang through the court-room, the cry of this girl who believed that she was lost”—extends the withheld pity. In further pursuit of Tenderloin scenes, one night in the same month Crane met with two chorus girls and interviewed them at the Broadway Garden, a known resort of prostitutes. There they were joined by Dora Clark, a friend of the chorus girls, and the four left together at about two in the morning. What followed—the arrest of Dora Clark for solicitation and Crane’s appearance on her behalf in court—was described by him in the New York Journal of September 20 under the headline “ADVENTURES OF A NOVELIST.” Another sometime visitor to Tenderloin scenes in that year was Teddy Roosevelt, one of the four members of the Police Board appointed in 1895 to reform a corrupt police force and clear the city of the vicious activities that force had protected. Accompanied by Jacob Riis, the noted authority on slum life, Commissioner Roosevelt would walk the nighttime streets in disguise to check on how policemen were performing their duties. Roosevelt had welcomed Crane’s earlier studies of the Bowery such as Maggie , but when Crane bore witness against a policeman, as he did in the Dora Clark case, Roosevelt was quick to discredit him as a man who frequented prostitutes, drank heavily, and took drugs—based, apparently, on the absence of moralizing when Crane depicted such matters in his sketches. Many another agreed with Roosevelt, while every New York police officer recognized Crane on sight and was determined to harass the man who had testified against a fellow officer. In the city of his greatest creative period Stephen Crane had become persona non grata. His departure for Florida in November 1896, en route to Cuba and coverage of the Cuban revolution, ended his remarkable New York career. Crane returned to New York three more times, but always in transit from one site of death to another. When the Greco-Turkish War broke out he passed through New York in March of 1897 on his way from Florida to cover that conflict, and at its close in June chose to return to London rather than America. When the Spanish-American War broke out, however, he rushed back to New York in order to enlist in the navy, but the tuberculosis that was to end his life was already evident and, failing the physical examination, he went to Havana as a war correspondent. Then at war’s end, for a third and final time, he passed through the city en route back to England and the society of admiring literary friends such as Henry James, H. G. Wells, Ford Madox Ford, and especially Joseph Conrad. Settled in Sussex, Crane undertook a killing schedule, racing to meet the deadlines of journals to which he had promised work even as he attempted also to write stories and novels. He left himself no time to rest, and rest he critically needed as the tuberculosis he had for too long attempted to deny relentlessly advanced upon him. Finally, in May 1900, unable even to rise to his feet, he was carried to a sanitarium in Germany’s Black Forest, and there in the following month, age twenty-eight years seven months, Stephen Crane died. His final journey was to burial in Hillside, New Jersey. SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING BIOGRAPHY Benfey, Christopher. The Double Life of Stephen Crane (New York, 1992). The best single discussion of Crane’s life and work. Berryman, John. Stephen Crane (New York, 1960) offers brilliant critical interpretation but is unreliable with regard to the facts of Crane’s life. Davis, Linda H. Badge of Courage: The Life of Stephen Crane (Boston, 1998). Linson, Corwin K. My Stephen Crane (Syracuse, 1958), a memoir by Crane’s friend, is always fascinating although not always trustworthy. Wertheim, Stanley, and Paul Sorrentino. The Crane Log (New York, 1994) is a rich “documentary life,” informative on every page. LETTERS The Correspondence of Stephen Crane , ed. Stanley Wertheim and Paul Sorrentino (New York, 1988), 2 vols. Stephen Crane: Letters , ed. R. W. Stallman and Lillian Gilkes (New York, 1960). CRITICISM: BOOKS Colvert, James B. Stephen Crane (San Diego, 1984). Gandal, Keith. The Virtues of the Vicious (New York, 1997). Haliburton, David. The Color of the Sky: A Study of Stephen Crane (Cambridge, U.K., 1989). Robertson, Michael. Stephen Crane, Journalism, and the Making of Modern America (New York, 1997). Solomon, Eric. Stephen Crane: From Parody to Realism (Cambridge, Mass., 1966). CRITICISM: ARTICLES Bloom, Harold, ed. Stephen Crane (New York, 1987) contains articles on some of Crane’s New York works. Colvert, James. “Stephen Crane and Postmodern Theory,” American Literary Realism 28:1 (Fall 1995). Excerpted from Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Other Tales of New York by Stephen Crane All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.</anon> </opt>

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