Dissecting Maggie (A Girl Of The Streets) Dissecting Maggie Maggie, A Girl of the Streets focuses on a young woman turning to the streets of New York in the late nineteenth century. Stephen Crane uses this novella to raise Americas consciousness of the desolate conditions present in urbanized cities.
The Industrial Revolution had made production more bearable, but was making life increasingly unlivable for those in certain metropolises. The Industrial Revolution brought change and growth to areas such as New York City. Mechanization in Th work place led to harsher working conditions. Open factories gave way to cramped and unsafe institutions. Many of the new machines were crude versions of what we are aquatinted with today. These machines were often improperly developed and dangerous to use if the operator was not well trained.
This resulted in many deaths and disfigurements of those on the clock. Also, this sudden availability of production created greed in the minds of the entrepreneurs. This fervor for creations led to longer and more difficult hours for those employed. The buildings were also poorly ventilated and many workers became ill from inhalation of the charcoal fumes. These close quarters also caused horrible accidents, such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911. One of the most notorious of these institutions was the sweatshop, given this name for their close and sweaty quarters.
This labor-intensive strategy could be employed only with a large number of workers. Many persons in these sweatshops were lower-class women with few, if any, other options. They were forced to accept these torturous jobs out of desperation and the proprietors took full advantage of this weakness. They were able to raise hours and lower wages. Sweatshop conditions were detestable.
Men operated in small basement rooms, poorly lighted and ventilated. The room may or may not have had a floor, and many were forced to work on bare earth. In another room about twelve by fifteen feet in dimension resides the ladies work area. The rooms were filled to overflowing with sewing machines and pressers, making to near impossible to move around.
This area was adjacent to tenement bedrooms, separated by a frail partition. In some situations these shops were equipped with a heating and cooling system, lighted with electric lights. Others were not so lucky and worked in uncomfortable rooms aided only with the light of a poor gasoline lamp. The organizers of these factories also did all they could to avoid rent and made sure that the shop was only strong enough to sustain the jar of the machines. (Annals of America 1884-1894, 379.) Maggie was like many of these unlucky women, forced to work at a collar and cuff manufactory in order to maintain her parents alcohol addiction and to help keep food on the table. Crane placed Maggie in such an environment to elicit a feeling of sympathy within us and possibly reveal to America the situations they were being faced with.
At the turn of the century, New York City was the most prosperous American city. The waves of European immigrants coming to New York, the consolidation of New York suburbs into one metropolis, the development of the citys infrastructure, and the incredible construction boom all led to the citys prominence. However, this growth also created a lack of proper housing in the city and residents turned to tenement living as an alternative. These houses were established to accommodate the maximum number of residents possible.
It sacrificed floor area to allow light and air to penetrate. It stretched to a height of about four of five stories and was built on a lot by lot approach. The result of development was a donut-shaped block- perimeter massing with open space in the block interior. (Internet source #1.) The establishments lacked indoor plumbing and were crowded and unsanitary. The buildings were entered into off the streets and this created a haven for crime and violence. Even when America, when it became belief that a family needed privacy and isolation to survive, tenement living continued to thrive.
The social upheaval of the Industrial Revolution heightened this threat to the family and cultural identity, not only by changing how people lived and worked, but also by bringing in a flood of immigrants with strange customs and views. As the population of Manhattan grew, the price of single-family housing soared, many residents had no choice but to share housing, in boarding houses or sub-divided private houses. By the late 1850s, two-thirds of New York families live in multi-family housing. Though conditions were horrendous, few people spoke out against these slums.
The battle for reform in New York City was a very slow succession of investigations, reports, laws and amendments. Progress occurred in 1860, when a law requiring fire escapes was passes and in 1862 when the Survey and Inspection of Buildings was established. However, given the conditions described in Maggies Rum Alley dwelling, it seems that not enough progress had been made, Crane tells us of a dozen gruesome doorways with loads of babies to the street and the gutterformidable women with uncombed hair and discolored dress screaming in frantic quarrels. He tells of how the building quivered and creaked from the combined weight of humanity stamping around in its bowels. Maggies home life consisted of a drunken, oblivious father and an ever drunker and abusive mother. In one scene the reader gets a glimpse of the fathers addiction as he rips an old womans beer from the hands of a child.
Though the father is terrible in his own right, the true misery of her home lies in the hands of her paradoxical mother. She condemns Maggies dalliances with a drunken slur and attempts to instruct Maggie on how to conduct her life without knowing how to conduct her own. It also seems this novella centers around drinkingit certainly seems the socially enthralling thing to do. From Pete, the bartender, to Jimmies addictions, it seems their whole social circle revolves around alcohol consumption.
With Maggie, Cranes first published piece, he addresses the several of the issues evident in the rest of his better-known pieces. This includes indifference, fallen humanity, bertrayal, guilt, and forgiviness, and sin versus virtue. In Maggie, he effectively uses these themes to express to the reader the conditions apparent in the slums of New York City. This work clearly shows the kind of scenarios faced by lower-class city dwellers and perhaps changed a few opinions in its time. Things have changed dramatically in our time and we need pieces like this to remind us of how things used to be, and to keep that feeling of compassion alive.