Maggie: A Girl of the Streets  (part two)

  • What is the primary obstacle to Maggie achieving perspective on her situation? Do you hold her responsible for her inability to do so?
  • What could Maggie have learned from Nellie?
  • What does Maggie realized at the moment that she is dumped by Pete? What options does Maggie have at this point? 
  • Could Maggie have done anything to interrupt this slide down the slippery slope


Think also of the zeitgeist in which the novel was written:

  • Freud: Childhood trauma makes the the transition to adulthood even more difficult.
  • Darwin: Social Darwinism regarded economic competition as akin to natural selection, culling inferior people, ethnicities, and nationalities from the gene pool.
  • Nietzsche: The Superman who thrives in a God-less world is the individual who has the courage to overcome guilt and draw on primal instincts to dominste others.
  • Marx: History is driven by class struggle. The ruling class uses its power to establish moral standards which help keep the rich on top. So poor people remain poor because they cannot measure up to the moral values of the middle class.


Why does Maggie ultimately decide to leave home?


What is the reaction of Maggie’s family when she leaves and moves in with Pete?


What does ‘being sent to the devil’ mean in this tenement society? What point is Crane making about middle class moral attitudes and their place in the ghetto?  (Are attitudes in the ghetto still the same today)


Mrs. Johnson says:


"May Gawd curse her forever," she shrieked. "May she eat
nothin' but stones and deh dirt in deh street. May she sleep in
deh gutter an' never see deh sun shine agin. Deh damn--" (
Chapter 10)


What kind of gossip does Maggie’s decision generate among the neighbors in her tenement building?


How does Mrs. Johnson plan to take her revenge on Maggie?


"Den I'll take 'er in, won't I, deh beast. She kin cry 'er two eyes out
on deh stones of deh street before I'll dirty deh place wid her.
She abused an' ill-treated her own mudder--her own mudder what
loved her an' she'll never git anodder chance dis side of hell." (Chapter 13)


How does Jimmie react?


He suddenly broke out again. "I'll go t'ump hell outa deh mug
what did her deh harm. I'll kill 'im! He t'inks he kin scrap,
but when he gits me a-chasin' 'im he'll fin' out where he's wrong,
deh damned duffer. I'll wipe up deh street wid 'im." (Chapter 10)


Why is Jimmie’s reaction completely hypocritical?


A forlorn woman went along a lighted avenue. (Chapter 15)


What does Jimmie admit to himself but no one else about Maggie’s fall? (44)


Of course Jimmie publicly damned his sister that he might
appear on a higher social plane. But, arguing with himself,
stumbling about in ways that he knew not, he, once, almost came to
a conclusion that his sister would have been more firmly good had
she better known why. However, he felt that he could not hold such
a view. He threw it hastily aside. (Chapter 13)


Look at the build-up to the bar fight in Chapter 11 when Jimmie defends his family honor by fighting Pete.


Note the descriptions at the height of the fight. What is Crane’s purpose?

Note the steady deterioration of the places to which Pete takes Maggie out on dates: what kind of customers are hanging out in the ‘hall of irregular shape’ to which he has taken her? (Chapter 12)


Does Maggie have any inkling that Pete is about to dump her?


As to the present she perceived only vague reasons to be
miserable. Her life was Pete's and she considered him worthy of
the charge. She would be disturbed by no particular apprehensions,
so long as Pete adored her as he now said he did. She did not feel
like a bad woman. To her knowledge she had never seen any better. (Chapter 12)


Who is the woman of cheerfulness and audacity that takes Pete from Maggie?

How is she dressed? (Maggie notices)


Maggie took instant note of the woman. She perceived that her
black dress fitted her to perfection. Her linen collar and cuffs
were spotless. Tan gloves were stretched over her well-shaped
hands. A hat of a prevailing fashion perched jauntily upon her
dark hair. She wore no jewelry and was painted with no apparent
paint. She looked clear-eyed through the stares of the men. (Chapter 14)


What does Nellie think of Maggie?


"A little pale thing with no spirit," she said. "Did you note
the expression of her eyes? There was something in them about
pumpkin pie and virtue. That is a peculiar way the left corner
of her mouth has of twitching, isn't it? Dear, dear, my cloud-
compelling Pete, what are you coming to?" (Chapter 16)


How does Mrs. Johnson humiliate Maggie in front of the whole building when she returns home after being dumped by Pete?

Maggie's mother paced to and fro, addressing the doorful of
eyes, expounding like a glib showman at a museum. Her voice rang
through the building.

"Dere she stands," she cried, wheeling suddenly and pointing
with dramatic finger. "Dere she stands! Lookut her! Ain' she a
dindy? An' she was so good as to come home teh her mudder, she
was! Ain' she a beaut'? Ain' she a dindy? Fer Gawd's sake!" (Chapter 15)


What does Pete tell Maggie when she goes to his bar after she has been humiliated at home?


"Oh, go teh hell," cried he. He slammed the door furiously
and returned, with an air of relief, to his respectability.


How does Maggie respond? Does she have an epiphany at this moment? What options does she have now?


Maggie went away.

She wandered aimlessly for several blocks. She stopped once
and asked aloud a question of herself: "Who?" (Chapter 16)

Note the stages of Maggie’s descent into oblivion during her long walk to the East River. Why doesn’t she respond to her situation like Nell did?