Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 11, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 261

After completing Maggie when he was twenty-two, Crane had the novel published privately under the pseudonym Johnston Smith in 1893. This version caught the eye of literary critics Hamlin Garland and William Dean Howells, who championed it and eventually, after its rejection by The Century Magazine , convinced D. Appleton...

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After completing Maggie when he was twenty-two, Crane had the novel published privately under the pseudonym Johnston Smith in 1893. This version caught the eye of literary critics Hamlin Garland and William Dean Howells, who championed it and eventually, after its rejection by The Century Magazine, convinced D. Appleton and Company to publish the novel in 1896. Maggie did not gain much success with the reading public, however, until Crane toned down the more violent scenes in the revised 1896 version.

Theodore Dreiser, in a letter to Max J. Herzberg, printed in the Michigan Daily Sunday Magazine, declared Maggie to “bear all the marks of a keen and unblessed sympathy with life, as well as a high level of literary perception.” He concluded that Crane was “one of the few writers who stood forward intellectually and artistically at a time when this nation was as thoroughly submerged in romance and sentimentality and business as it is today.” In a 1922 piece on Crane printed in Friday Nights: Literary Criticism and Appreciation, Edward Garnett described the novel as a “little masterpiece” in its “remorseless study of New York slum and Bowery morals.” Garnett insisted Maggie is not “a story about people; it is primitive human nature itself set down with perfect spontaneity and grace of handling.” He found the “aesthetic beauty” of the work unsurpassed.

The support of Dreiser and Garnett, along with that of Amy Lowell and Willa Cather, helped rediscover Crane and Maggie in the 1920s. In the early 2000s, the novel is regarded as one of the finest examples of American literary naturalism.

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Criticism