Innocence vs. Experience in "Maggie: A Girl of the Streets" by Stephen Crane

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It is believed that the world exists in two fashions, innocence and experience. Neither can exist without its opposite. Innocence is where humans begin, and they must pass through experience on their way to heaven. One figure from turn-of-the-century literature are prime examples of innocence lost which characterize this idea. Maggie, author Stephen Crane's main character in Maggie: A Girl of the Streets is a soul whose story shows the trauma of the loss of innocence through experience. This story can be used to develop the polarity of innocence and experience.

Stephen Crane's Maggie is allowed no such Heaven. Her traumatic experience ends in her death without redemption. Crane allows for the dual existence of innocence and experience but without the catharsis enjoyed by Mamie. Innocence surrounded by experience, but unable to survive there, is the dominant theme of Maggie: A Girl of the Streets.

After her little brother's death near the beginning of the story, Maggie exists as the sole example of innocence in the Bowery. Her parents drunken rages and constant fighting are tragic representations of the horrors of experience. Her brother Jimmie is the epitome of experience, driving his horses through the city and trampling any innocence upon which they come. He cannot understand how Maggie could possibly remain innocent surrounded by the filth of his world. Maggie seeks only escape from the Bowery but doesn't wish to become as her family. She latches onto Pete as a symbol of maturity and success who can both appreciate her innocence and incorporate her into his experience. Pete is at first attracted by her purity but eventually abandons her for Nell, a figure who, like Mamie, speaks fluently and dresses accordingly. Without Pete to lead her out of Bowery life Maggie is lost...