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Custom A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane Essay

Naturalism in literature is an attempt to understand which common laws lie behind human life in society. Due to the fact that naturalists believe that these laws are objective, it is reflected in the philosophical background and narrative techniques that they use. A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane has several elements, which confirm its belonging to naturalism. First of all, the belief that a person’s background and genetics are crucial is found in the book. Secondly, characters are treated as a sum total of external circumstances, which they cannot rule. Finally, the theme of violence is a dominating one in the book, which is typical for naturalism.

Naturalistic approach suggests that human existence and behavior is not independent but is deeply rooted in the environment, in which a person grows up and then lives. Heredity is a part of this environment, which determines the way human life is developed.  Maggie Johnson, the main character of the novel, is the author’s illustration of the tragedy that is caused by a person’s origin and background. At first sight, Maggie seems to be an exception to the rule suggested by naturalism. Despite gloomy poor life and her surroundings, she keeps her faith is a better life and love. Yet, the situation appears to be that she is entrapped by the environment, in which she grew up and it penetrated her soul deeply. Her mother is an alcoholic, her father is violent, and she seems to have no choice because of this. The author deliberately makes his heroine devoid of bright individual traits to imply that she is a product of society, which shaped her as she is. Due to the influence of heredity, she is psychologically unstable and supposedly commits suicide.

The character’s fatality, when she has no choice and seems to be led by external forces and circumstances, is another specific aspect of naturalism. Unlike the approach, when an individual is free to choose any path, Crane’s characters are dependent on circumstances so much that they cannot make any step independently. Naturalists believe that the laws that rule people’s lives work as machines, which are much stronger than people. This is why a romantic Maggie appears to be a prostitute, because she cannot stand the fate created for her by environment and her individual influence is not strong enough to change the situation. 

Finally, the theme of violence is also a sign of naturalism because it is closely related to the idea of biological struggle and survival of the fittest. In fact, violence is something that related humans to their animal background, to nature in its darker form. However, unlike worship of nature, which Romanticism suggested, Naturalism has quite a sober vision of nature. They believe that it is cruel and indifferent because it is based on the mechanism of survival and instincts; this is why violence is a way to succeed in this struggle. Maggie’s father and brother are examples of this violent masculinity, which is destructive and unavoidable. As opposed to men, females are victims of violence and have no other choice than to be subdued.

In conclusion, it should be noted that the novel has several aspects of naturalism, which are implied through its philosophy, plot and characters. First of all, a person’s background is fatal in shaping one’s life. Secondly, one is a victim of external influence and has no power to manage one’s life. Finally, violence is an aspect that related human society to nature or rather to biological survival of species. Males’ violence over females is presented as a reflection of instincts and heredity, which in the end results in Maggie’s impossibility to escape from the vicious circle of her life.

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