The Progressive Era and Religion

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The Progressive Era gave reformers concerns about the poor of American cities. Many developed the view that poverty was a result of some people’s characters and not their environmental and social condition. This brought up the argument and idea of the deserving poor versus the non-deserving poor. This alluded to the thought that character made a person poor and not that being poor made the character. However, Stephen Crane’s short story Maggie: A Girl of the Streets critiques many of these ideas. His biggest critique was that of religion and the standards and hypocrisy of it. This essay will argue that Crane critiques the hypocrisy of Christianity and Christians through the characterization of a wide range of characters in his novel.
The most prominent example of Crane’s critique against religion and it’s hypocrisy is Maggie’s mother Mary. Even her name is a critique for it could reference religious symbol Mary, mother of Jesus. However, Mary Johnson is the complete opposite of the Virgin Mary. She is a hypocrite both personally and with her own religion. Mrs. Johnson is also a voice of the moral norm of her time, despite the fact that she violates it at every point. Mrs. Johnson is an alcoholic who abuses her children and she makes the home unlivable by her drunken rages, yet she condemns her daughter for having sex out of wedlock. She refuses to let Maggie live with her even when Maggie is abandoned by her lover. She uses her religion of Christianity as the excuse yet she
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