Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1892) Part One, Chapters 1-10
- Freud, Darwin, Marx,
Nietzsche and the zeitgeist of late 19th.c America
- Hard Determinism vs. Soft
- Describe the situation of
children who grow up in the Rum Alley ghetto.
- What can you predict will be
the plot of the story?
- Pay attention to Crane's style:
what is his perspective of his characters?
- pitched fisticuffs:
Jimmie, run! Dey'll get yehs,"
screamed a retreating
Rum Alley child.
"Naw," responded Jimmie with a
valiant roar, "dese micks can't
make me run."
Howls of renewed wrath went up from Devil's Row throats.
Tattered gamins on the right made a furious
assault on the gravel
heap. On their small, convulsed faces there shone the grins of
true assassins. As they charged, they threw stones and cursed in
shrill chorus. (Chapter 1)
- tenement universe
- From a
window of an apartment house that upreared
from amid squat, ignorant stables, there leaned a curious woman.
Some laborers, unloading a scow at a dock at the river, paused for
a moment and regarded the fight. The engineer of a passive tugboat
hung lazily to a railing and watched. Over on the Island, a worm
of yellow convicts came from the shadow of a building and crawled
slowly along the river's bank. (Chapter One)
- convulsed tenements
they entered into a dark region where, from a
careening building, a dozen gruesome doorways gave up loads of
babies to the street and the gutter. A wind of early autumn raised
yellow dust from cobbles and swirled it against an hundred windows.
Long streamers of garments fluttered from fire-escapes. In all
unhandy places there were buckets, brooms, rags and bottles. In
the street infants played or fought with other infants or sat
stupidly in the way of vehicles. Formidable women, with uncombed
hair and disordered dress, gossiped while leaning on railings, or
screamed in frantic quarrels. Withered persons, in curious
postures of submission to something, sat smoking pipes in obscure
corners. A thousand odors of cooking food came forth to the
street. The building quivered and creaked from the weight of
humanity stamping about in its bowels.
- Maggie eating her dinner
- …the babe
sat with his feet dangling high from a precarious infant chair
and gorged his small stomach. Jimmie forced, with feverish rapidity,
the grease-enveloped pieces between his wounded lips. Maggie,
glances of fear of interruption, ate like a small pursued tigress. The
sat blinking at them. She delivered reproaches, swallowed potatoes and
drank from a yellow-brown bottle. (Chapter Two)
- the pail of beer
front of the gruesome doorway he met a lurching figure.
It was his father, swaying about on uncertain legs.
"Give me deh can. See?" said the
"Ah, come off! I got dis can fer dat ol' woman an' it 'ud be
dirt teh swipe it. See?" cried Jimmie.
The father wrenched the pail from the urchin. He grasped it
in both hands and lifted it to his mouth. He glued his lips to the
under edge and tilted his head. His hairy throat swelled until it
seemed to grow near his chin. There was a tremendous gulping
movement and the beer was gone.
The man caught his breath and laughed. He hit his son on the
head with the empty pail. As it rolled clanging into the street,
Jimmie began to scream and kicked repeatedly at his father's shins.
- Crane’s conclusion
small frame of the ragged girl was quivering. Her features
were haggard from weeping, and her eyes gleamed from
She grasped the urchin's arm in her little trembling hands and they
huddled in a corner. The eyes of both were drawn, by some force,
to stare at the woman's face, for they thought she need only to
awake and all fiends would come from below.
They crouched until the ghost-mists of dawn appeared at the
window, drawing close to the panes, and looking in at the
prostrate, heaving body of the mother. (Chapter 3)
are we to make of Crane’s brutal ridicule of the poor? Is his
stereotyping justifiable? What does he find most contemptible about
Jimmie, Pete and Maggie? Could
he be as savage in his depiction of the impoverished today? (Imagine
Pete as a black man or as a Hispanic?)
- Can you pinpoint a moment in
Jimmie’s development into adulthood when he could have altered the final
shape of his character?
- Grown up Jimmie
inexperienced fibres of the boy's eyes were
hardened at an
early age. He became a young man of leather. He lived some red
years without laboring. During that time his sneer became chronic.
He studied human nature in the gutter, and found it no worse than
he thought he had reason to believe it. He never conceived a
respect for the world, because he had begun with no idols that it
- You have the same task to
accomplish with Maggie. Find the moments in her story in which she
should have chosen differently. Otherwise, she will fall victim to the
plot of melodrama.
- What makes Maggie special?
girl, Maggie, blossomed in a mud puddle. She grew to be
a most rare and wonderful production of a tenement district,
a pretty girl. (Chapter Five)
- Why does Maggie fall for
Pete? Compare the way she sees Pete with the way that Crane
- Maggie’s Description:
He sat on a table in the Johnson home and dangled
legs with an enticing nonchalance. His hair was curled down over
his forehead in an oiled bang. His rather pugged nose seemed to
revolt from contact with a bristling moustache of short, wire-like
hairs. His blue double-breasted coat, edged with black braid,
buttoned close to a red puff tie, and his patent-leather shoes
looked like murder-fitted weapons.
His mannerisms stamped him as a man who had a
correct sense of
his personal superiority. There was valor and contempt for
circumstances in the glance of his eye. He waved his hands like a
man of the world, who dismisses religion and philosophy, and says
"Fudge." He had certainly seen everything and with each curl
his lip, he declared that it amounted to nothing. Maggie
thought he must be a very elegant and graceful bartender.
- Pete's macho tale
was telling tales to Jimmie.
Maggie watched him furtively, with half-closed eyes, lit with
a vague interest.
"Hully gee! Dey makes me tired," he said. "Mos' e'ry day
some farmer comes in an' tries teh run deh shop. See? But dey
gits t'rowed right
out! I jolt dem right out in deh
dey knows where dey
"Sure," said Jimmie.
"Dere was a mug come in deh place deh odder day wid an idear
he wus goin' teh own deh place! Hully gee, he wus goin' teh own
deh place! I see he had a still on an' I didn' wanna giv 'im no
stuff, so I says: 'Git deh
hell outa here an' don' make no
trouble,' I says like dat! See? 'Git deh hell outa here
make no trouble'; like dat. 'Git deh hell outa here,' I says. See?"
§ Pete's move on Maggie
"Say, Mag, I'm stuck on yer shape. It's outa sight." (Chapter Six)
He walked to and fro in the small room, which seemed then to
grow even smaller and unfit to hold his dignity, the attribute of
a supreme warrior. That swing of the shoulders that had frozen the
timid when he was but a lad had increased with his growth and
education at the ratio of ten to one. It, combined
with the sneer
upon his mouth, told mankind that there was nothing in space which
could appall him. Maggie marvelled at him and
surrounded him with
greatness. She vaguely tried to calculate the altitude of the
pinnacle from which he must have looked down upon her.
"I met a chump deh odder day
way up in deh city," he said. "I
was goin' teh see a frien' of mine. When I was a-crossin'
street deh chump runned
plump inteh me, an' den he turns aroun' an'
says, 'Yer insolen' ruffin,' he says, like dat. 'Oh, gee,' I says,
'oh, gee, go teh hell and git
off deh eart',' I says,
See? 'Go teh hell an' git
off deh eart',' like dat.
blokie he got wild. He says I was a contempt'ble scoun'el,
er somet'ing like dat, an' he says I was doom' teh
pe'dition an' all like dat. 'Gee,' I says, 'gee! Deh hell I am,'
I says. 'Deh hell I am,' like dat. An' den I
slugged 'im. See?" (Chapter Six)
- Maggie's reaction:
Her eyes dwelt wonderingly and rather wistfully upon Pete's face. The
furniture, grimey walls, and general
disorder and dirt of her home
of a sudden appeared before her and began to take a potential
aspect. (Chapter Six)
Here was a formidable man who disdained the strength of a
world full of fists. Here was one who had contempt
clothed power; one whose knuckles could defiantly
ring against the
granite of law. He was a knight. (Chapter Six)
She reflected upon the collar and cuff factory. It began to
appear to her mind as a dreary place of endless grinding. Pete's
elegant occupation brought him, no doubt, into contact with people
who had money and manners. It was probable that he had a large
acquaintance of pretty girls. He must have great sums of money to
spend. (Chapter Six)
- Their first date
aggressively walked up a side aisle and took seats with
Maggie at a table beneath the balcony.
"Say, what deh hell?
Bring deh lady a big glass! What deh
hell use is dat pony?"
"Don't be fresh, now," said the waiter,
with some warmth, as
"Ah, git off deh
eart'," said Pete, after the other's
Maggie perceived that Pete brought forth all his
all his knowledge of high-class customs for her benefit. Her heart
warmed as she reflected upon his condescension. (Chapter 7)
Name some of the
acts in the show. Describe Maggie's reactions
- a singer attired in some half
dozen skirts, each of which she removes
- a ventriloquist (
"Do dose little men talk?")
- two sisters sing a church duet
supplemented by erotic dance.
- a woman of debatable age
sings a negro melody
- a man sings about Britain
being annihilated by America and Ireland bursting her bonds
- The Star-Spangled Banner!
- a small fat man roars a song
wildly waving a glossy silk hat and throwing leers
- Look carefully at the moment when Maggie realizes the
future which awaits her in the factory.
- The air
in the collar and cuff establishment strangled her.
She knew she was gradually and surely shrivelling
in the hot,
stuffy room. The begrimed windows rattled incessantly from the
passing of elevated trains. The place was filled with a whirl of
noises and odors.
She wondered as she regarded some of the grizzled women in the
room, mere mechanical contrivances sewing seams and grinding out,
with heads bended over their work, tales of imagined or real
girlhood happiness, past drunks, the baby at home, and unpaid wages.
She speculated how long her youth would endure. She began to see
the bloom upon her cheeks as valuable.
She imagined herself, in an exasperating future, as
woman with an eternal grievance. Too, she thought Pete to be
a very fastidious person concerning the appearance of women.
- Has she recognized her
situation in life? Is Pete her route out of the ghetto? Does she
have any other options?
- Melodrama and Maggie: Think about
what Crane is up to when he describes Maggie's reactions while watching the melodrama show.
during the week he took her to see plays in which the
brain-clutching heroine was rescued from the palatial home of her
guardian, who is cruelly after her bonds, by the hero with the
beautiful sentiments. The latter spent most of his time out at
soak in pale-green snow storms, busy with a nickel-plated revolver,
rescuing aged strangers from villains.
Maggie lost herself in sympathy with the wanderers
snow storms beneath happy-hued church windows. And a choir within
singing "Joy to the World." To Maggie and the rest of the
this was transcendental realism. Joy always within, and they, like
the actor, inevitably without. Viewing it, they hugged themselves
in ecstatic pity of their imagined or real condition.
The girl thought the arrogance and granite-heartedness of the
magnate of the play was very accurately drawn. She echoed the
maledictions that the occupants of the gallery showered on this
individual when his lines compelled him to expose his extreme
Shady persons in the audience revolted from the pictured
villainy of the drama. With untiring zeal they hissed vice and
applauded virtue. Unmistakably bad men evinced an apparently
sincere admiration for virtue.
The loud gallery was overwhelmingly with the
unfortunate and the
oppressed. They encouraged the struggling hero with cries, and
jeered the villain, hooting and calling attention to his whiskers.
When anybody died in the pale-green snow storms, the gallery mourned.
They sought out the painted misery and hugged it as akin.
In the hero's erratic march from poverty in the
first act, to
wealth and triumph in the final one, in which he forgives all the
enemies that he has left, he was assisted by the gallery, which
applauded his generous and noble sentiments and confounded the
speeches of his opponents by making irrelevant but very sharp
remarks. Those actors who were cursed with villainy parts were
confronted at every turn by the gallery. If one of them rendered
lines containing the most subtile
distinctions between right and
wrong, the gallery was immediately aware if the actor meant
wickedness, and denounced him accordingly.
The last act was a triumph for the hero, poor and of the
masses, the representative of the audience, over the villain
and the rich man, his pockets stuffed with bonds, his heart packed
with tyrannical purposes, imperturbable amid suffering.
always departed with raised spirits from the showing
places of the melodrama. She rejoiced at the way in which the poor
and virtuous eventually surmounted the wealthy and wicked. The
theatre made her think. She wondered if the culture and refinement
she had seen imitated, perhaps grotesquely, by the heroine on the
stage, could be acquired by a girl who lived in a tenement house
and worked in a shirt factory.
- Remember that Maggie
herself is a character in a melodrama. Is he hinting at a way for her
to escape the plot in which she is enmeshed? Should she behave like the
character with whom she identifies in the show?
- Why does Maggie decide to
standing in the middle of the room, gazed about her.
The usual upheaval of the tables and chairs had taken place.
Crockery was strewn broadcast in fragments. The stove had been
disturbed on its legs, and now leaned idiotically to one side.
A pail had been upset and water spread in all directions.
The door opened and Pete appeared. He shrugged his shoulders.
"Oh, Gawd," he observed.
walked over to Maggie and whispered in her ear. "Ah, what
deh hell, Mag? Come ahn
and we'll have a hell of a time."
The mother in the corner upreared her head
and shook her
"Teh hell wid him and
you," she said, glowering at her
daughter in the gloom. Her eyes seemed to burn balefully. "Yeh've
gone teh deh
devil, Mag Johnson, yehs knows yehs have gone teh deh
devil. Yer a disgrace teh
yer people, damn yeh.
An' now, git out
an' go ahn wid dat doe-faced jude of yours. Go teh
hell wid him,
damn yeh, an' a good riddance. Go teh hell an' see how yeh
Maggie gazed long at her mother.
"Go teh hell now, an' see how yeh likes it. Git out. I
have sech as yehs
in me house! Get out, d'yeh hear! Damn yeh,
git out!" (Chapter Ten)
- What are the consequences of
her decision in this 1890 Irish slum?
Overview: What are we to make of Crane’s brutal ridicule of the
poor? Is his stereotyping justifiable? What does he find most contemptible
about Jimmie, Pete and Maggie? Could he be as savage in his depiction of the impoverished
today? (Imagine Pete as a black man or as an