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Literary Naturalism in Crane’s “Maggie”

Naturalism was mainly a literature concept introduced during the nineteenth-century period to emphasize the application of detachment and objectivity in studying humanity through depicting the realism of life and the struggles of the time. This discussion offers a vivid evaluation of the use of literary American naturalism as emphasized in Donald Pizer’s essay, “Stephen Cane’s “Maggie,” about contemporary American social life. In particular, Crane paints the audience with an image of humanity dwelling by ironical and false expectations and moral codes that replicate harmful ethical standards in contemporary American social life.

In Donald Pizer’s essay, specifically Cane’s, Maggie emphasizes American naturalism through irony and exaggeration to demonstrate how humanity lived by false expectations and moral codes. Precisely, Crane forces the readers to actively evaluate their social livelihoods and needs, especially in the scene where Maggie accuses the middle class that currently fosters and reinforces the requirement of social control and reform through imposing morality. However, it is essential to indicate that while Pizer emphasizes that the Johnsons try to emulate the ethics of respectability associated with home life and the middle-class population, the values and ethics do not relate to reality (171). Similarly, the contemporary American social setting faces harmful moral standards that worsen daily. For instance, gun violence in the streets has risen over the past decade with immense proportions while racial injustices and sexual immorality continue to persist. In particular, most of these immoral and unethical injustices are associated with irony and exaggeration of the belief that the nature of economic and social challenges faced by most Americans, especially the middle-class population, contribute to the rising levels of immorality. However, similarly to Maggie, Americanism is characterized by primitiveness with femininity and the fact that most of the middle-class population are stuck within their heritage, cultural traditions, and their inability to view different perspectives besides theirs.

Crane is primarily a satirical model of literary naturalism used by the author in “Maggie” to represent how naturalism makes people succumb to their fates through the excesses of irony and exaggeration. An example of such a satirical short scene would involve the American dream, which often involves leaders exploiting present environmental conditions to their advantage. The following scene signifies this example:

U.S President: We need to establish a wall that will prevent immigrants from coming to the United States to cause havoc and terrorism.

Media Reporter: By mentioning that, you imply that Mexican Immigrants are the leading causes of terrorism and violent crimes experienced in the USA today. Is that the actual Mr. President?

U.S President: Indeed, immigration into the USA has increased over the last three decades, which has given rise to those violent crimes we are fighting.

Media Reporter: If I may, Mr. President, statistics indicate that Mexican immigrants have drastically reduced since the recession, yet we constantly experience violence across several states in the USA.

U.S president: You seem not to understand the fact that the increased entry of illegal immigrants into the USA is caused by the lack of a wall physical barrier across our borders, leading to increased crime statistics across the nation.

After reading Crane’s “Maggie,” I understood how the concept of naturalism has evolved since the nineteenth-century era to incorporate the excesses of irony and exaggerations of rationalist leaders who view the immorality of the world through the lens of exploitation and personal gain. Contemporary American leaders often use the existing natural conditions associated with crimes to pursue policies and strategies at the expense of the most vulnerable marginalized populations.

Works Cited

Pizer, Donald. “Stephen Crane’s” Maggie” and American Naturalism.” Criticism 7.2 (1965): 168-175.


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