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Thoreau vs. Crane Comparative Essay

Thoreau vs. Crane Comparative Essay

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Published by seantcap2017
A comparative essay between Henry David Thoreau's, "Walden," and Stephen Crane's, "Maggie: A Girl of the Streets."
A comparative essay between Henry David Thoreau's, "Walden," and Stephen Crane's, "Maggie: A Girl of the Streets."

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Published by: seantcap2017 on Apr 20, 2014
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 Thoreau vs. Crane Comparative Essay Sean Tan Honors English 9 Green Group  November 7, 2013
The literary works of Henry David Thoreau’s
and Stephen Crane’s
 Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
, explore the significance of social
status as it relates to the influence on one’s
life through materialism, self-reliance, and philanthropy.
, Thoreau’s
documentation of his experiences at Walden Pond,
reflects on the idea of simplifying one’s life through self 
-sufficiency. Thoreau directs his opinions at those who are fortunate enough and have the capability to decide the outcome of their lives. Set in the slums of the New York Bowery at the turn of the nineteenth century,
 Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
 looks into these concepts from a  poverty-stricken perspective, in which one may not have the capabilities to control their life. Both Thoreau and Crane portray their views on achieving success and
happiness based on one’s
social class and the opportunities that one receives. While Thoreau believes that possessions enslave one with obligations, Crane regards the
ownership of such luxurious items as a way to raise one’s status in society.
, Thoreau
encourages one to get rid of all possessions, as he feels that these “gewgaws” distr 
act one from concentrating on the enjoyments of life (33). He believes
that “
men have become the tools of
their tools”, as possessions
are replacing the freedom and independence that one has with the  burden of responsibility (Thoreau 33). From his perspective, there are only four necessities to
survival, “Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Fuel” (Thoreau 14). Instead of a luxury, all othe
r items are an additional obligation that must be attended to. The maintenance of these useless  belongings takes time away from
the more productive tasks. When one obtains an item “he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the [item] that has got him” (Thoreau 30).
From when they are first obtained, material possessions force one into labor and therefore work against th
e owner. In Thoreau’s view, if one has accepted the unproductivity of materialism, he/she will
lead a simple and improved life.
 Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
, Crane incorporates his views on materialism
and its affect on one’s life
The characters in Crane’s novella introduce a perspective that is vastly different from that of Thoreau’s. Many are
 of the lower class, living in minimal conditions and barely able to support themselves. Due to these circumstances, Crane depicts his characters as being incapable of disposing of their possessions and needing every object they own. For the
majority of the Bowery population, all they have is “uncombed hair and disordered dress” with “buckets, brooms, rags, and bottles…in all the unhandy places” (Crane 39).
 Maggie, living in  poverty under an unsupportive family, associates her dream of a better life with wealth and the
 possession of luxurious items. Contradictory to Thoreau’s beliefs, Crane uses materialism as a
way for Maggie to escape her miserable life. Maggie continuously aspires to be
like “the well
dressed women”, craving their adornments and “conceiving [the items] to be allies of vast importance” (Crane 59).
 While Maggie does not necessarily want the actual objects themselves, she wishes for the feeling of delight that is associated with them. Crane also believes that these material possessions can be used as a way to promote one in achieving a higher social status. Under the conditions in which many of the characters are living in, avoiding materialism can be hard to stay away from.
From Thoreau’s viewpoint, self 
-reliance is necessary to live a simple and joyous lifestyle; on the contrary, Crane sees dependence on others as an important aspect to becoming successful in life. Thoreau believes that anyone, regardless of social status, is capable of being self-reliant. Once one is able to transition to a life of self-reliance, he/she can gain control of their life. In doing so, one will achieve happiness and learn from his/her experiences, rather than from those of another.
When addressing what he has learned from his seniors, Thoreau states, “They have
told me nothing, and probably
cannot tell me any thing” (12). Instead of relying on others for

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