Plum Bun and Maggie, a Girl of the Streets Compared

4 April 2015
Analysis of Jessie Redmon Fauset’s novel Plum Bun and Stephen Crane’s novel “Maggie, a Girl of the Streets”.

A comparative essay on the issue of identity and how gender constructs affect the heroines of both novels who choose either to fight their victimization or submit to their socially prescribed roles.
The ideals of existing social structures have managed to deprive individuals of self-created identities. W.I. Thomas writes in The Unadjusted Girl: “the role which a girl is expected to play in life is indicated to her by her family in a series of aesthetic-moral definitions of the situation” She has been the subject of a far-going idealization [Hence, the individual] does not know she has any particular value until she learns it from others?” (98). Thomas’ theory, that one’s identity is determined by these “aesthetic-moral definitions,” is relevant to the characters in Stephen Crane’s Maggie, a Girl of the Streets and Jessie Redmon Fauset’s Plum Bun whose identities are mere receptacles of societal projections. Maggie is perceived as a prostitute by her family and neighbors; therefore she is a prostitute. Similarly, Angela’s identity is complicated when she disowns part of it. Through the problematic identities of its characters both novels explore the fundamental rules of civilization that attempt to govern one’s life. In Maggie, a Girl of the Streets and Plum Bun the embracing of one’s identity is essential in defying these social constructions.
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