Naturalism in Stephen Crane's “Maggie, a Girl of the Streets”: exploration of social determinism
Garabal Uriondo, Javier
MetadataShow full item record
Literary works often reflect the reality of society, and naturalism, as a literary genre, is a clear example of this practice since naturalistic literature focuses on the scientific observation of life. Nonetheless, naturalistic writers go beyond realism incorporating a deterministic emphasis on environmental factors and heredity. Therefore, they present characters of low social and economic classes overwhelmed by the hostile environment that surrounds them. This pessimistic and deterministic view of naturalism permeated the works of many American writers such as Stephen Crane who adopted its principles to reflect in his work the social reality that American society was experiencing in the late nineteenth century. This thesis aims to analyze Crane’s novel Maggie, a Girl of the Streets focusing on one of the main characteristics of naturalistic literature, social determinism. Therefore, I argue that the most prominent naturalistic aspect of this novel is the deterministic view that the writer incorporates in the story since it depicts characters’ lives entirely shaped by their social, familiar, and economic circumstances. For this purpose, the study starts by providing an overview of the historical and cultural background at the time the novel was written together with a brief illustration of the concept of naturalism and its main features in order to offer a framework in which the novel will be analyzed. This analysis will be addressed through the exploration of the main factors that predispose the life of the protagonists. Thus, data collection has been conducted by a close reading of the novel, identifying examples of phrases, dialogues, and discourses through the text that reveal how the characters’ wills and desires are entirely governed by unavoidable external forces. Altogether, the analysis of the data and the exploration of the narrative elements in the novel show that, among all the defining characteristics of naturalism, the most predominant naturalistic feature present in the novel is determinism. In this regard, all the main characters in the novel are presented as human beings doomed to a tragic destiny because of environmental factors. In light of these findings, it can be concluded that the novel perfectly reflects the naturalistic theory of social determinism.