|Study Guide for Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
by Stephen Crane
1: The Street Fight (3-6)
Paragraph: Describe the situation of children who grow
up in the Rum Alley ghetto.
2: The Johnson Family (6-9)
| 4. Who are the members of the
5. Who is in charge
of the Johnson’s happy home? (7)
6. What do the kids get fed for dinner?
What does Mrs. Johnson have?
Jimmie’s Evening Adventure (10-13)
| 7. What does the old lady
who lives next door to the Johnsons do for a living?
8. What happens to the
pail of beer that Jimmie buys for her? (11)
9. Describe what
Jimmie sees when he creeps back into his
- Note Crane’s sketch of the
old woman beggar (10). What perspective does Crane take on
the debate about the deserving and undeserving poor?
- Note Crane’s ending
to the first section of his narrative. (13) (Freudian interpretation?)
Chapter 4: Jimmie’s Determined
| 10. What happened to the
11. What happened to Mr. Johnson?
12. How does Mrs. Johnson now support her family? (Why is she now famous in the
- Can you pinpoint a moment in
Jimmie’s development when he
could have altered the final shape of his character?
inexperienced fibers of the boy’s eyes were hardened at an early age.”
| 14. How does he spend most of his time
as a teenager? (14) Why doesn't Jimmie ever go to school?
Jimmie on the Job:
| 15. What job does Jimmie
16. Describe how Jimmie learns to deal with traffic.
Jimmie and the Law:
| 17. How does Jimmie
eventually get in
trouble with the law? (16) What is the only thing in Jimmie's
world which fills him with awe?
Maggie Blossoms ‘in a mud puddle’ (16-19)
| 18. What is the first thing
that Jimmie tells his sister when he realizes that she has blossomed
into ‘a puty
good looker’(16)? What does he mean?
- Can you pinpoint a moment in
Maggie's development into adulthood when she could have altered the
final shape of her character?
| 19. Describe what work
in the sweatshop
is like. (Did she have any trouble finding a job?)
Maggie’s Beau Ideal of a Man:
| 20. Describe what
Maggie sees when she meets sneering Pete
for the first time? (17) What do you see?
21. What tale
does Pete tell to impress Maggie? He struts his stuff (17-19)
22. How does Maggie measure herself
at this moment?
The Knight in Shining Armor (19-22)
Maggie and Pete's Romance:
| 23. Why is Maggie attracted
to Pete? (Look at the way she
describes him and then again here. Now, listen to the way he talks. (What is
24. How does Pete makes
25. What does Maggie believe she must do to make herself worthy of
Pete’s affection? Is this a moment of insight
for Maggie? (19-20) What does she dream
about while working at the factory?
7: Pete and Maggie at the Vaudeville Show (22-25)
Maggie and Pete's Romance:
| 26. Where does Pete take
Maggie on their
first date? What does Maggie think when Pete insists that she
be brought a big glass of
27. Name some of the acts
in the show. Describe Maggie's reactions to them.
28. What is Pete’s response when Maggie won’t kiss him goodnight?
- 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
29. On their subsequent dates Pete and Maggie go to dime museums
(freak shows), to a menagerie in Central Park, and the Metropolitan
Museum. Pete only likes the monkeys at the menagerie. What would Darwin think of this encounter?
8: Maggie’s Sweatshop Reveries; The Melodrama Show (25-28)
- Look carefully at the moment
when Maggie realizes the future which awaits her in the factory. 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 reaction to seeing
show. 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?
| 29. Describe the key moments
Maggie treasures in the melodrama show?
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
Mama Goes on a Bender (28-31)
| 31. What event
finally convinces Maggie to leave home and live with Pete? (31) Did she
have any choice in the matter? What
curse rings in her ear when she leaves?
- What is the only virtue which Mary
Johnson possesses? Why is this particular virtue so important to
Jimmie’s Sense of Family Honor (32-34)
| 32. What line has Maggie
crossed when she sleeps with Pete? (Carefully consider the old
gossip and its effect on Jimmie. Why is a young woman’s
reputation given such emphasis? Is a young woman’s virtue a potential
path out of poverty?)
33. How does Mother
Johnson respond? How about Jimmie?
(Note that he has committed the same sin several times.)
11: The Bar Fight (34-39)
| 34. Describe the build-up to
the fight? (What makes it so funny?) How does Crane describe Pete,
Jimmie and Jimmie’s friend at
the height of the bar fight? (38) What is Crane’s point? Why
does he focus so intently on this scene?
12: Maggie and Pete at the 'Hall of Irregular Shape' (39-41)
| 35. Does Maggie have any sense of Pete’s
readiness to dump her as she sits with him at the club? What is she thinking of instead?
36. What indications should she have noticed? To what kind of club
has he taken her? (41)
- What is the primary obstacle to
Maggie achieving the insight necessary to understand her situation?
What makes her unable to accomplish this goal? Do you hold her
13: Maggie’s Mortal Sin: “Queering” the Johnsons’ Reputation
| 37. How does Mary plan to save face in the
building? Why does the precinct judge think Mary must have forty-two
daughters? Why will Rum Alley society accept prodigal sons but not
prodigal daughters? (43)
38. What does Jimmie
admit to himself but no one else about Maggie’s fall? (44)
14: The Hilarious Hall: Nell Steals Pete (44-48)
| 39. Again, Crane devotes
considerable space to describing the riotous atmosphere of ‘the hilarious hall’
where Maggie will lose Pete. (44) What is Crane’s purpose?
40. Describe Nellie.
What makes her so interested in Pete? How does her approach towards
life (and men) differ from Maggie’s? What does she think of Maggie?
41. How does Maggie respond to getting dumped?
- What could Maggie have learned
from Nellie? Would that have saved her?
15: The Return of the Prodigal Daughter (48-51)
| 42. Who accosts Jimmie on
the street before he arrives home to discover the return of the
prodigal daughter? (49)
43. How is Maggie
driven from home? (50-51) What is Crane’s attitude towards
the scene? Does he treat this moment as a great tragedy?
16: Pete’s Brief Struggle of Conscience (Any glimmers for Maggie?)
| 44. How does Pete explain to
himself the violence of the Johnson’s anger? (51)
45. Why is he
afraid for his job when Mag comes by to confront him at the
bar? (52) What does he tell
46. To whom
does she turn? Is this a moment of recognition for her? (53)
- What has Maggie realized? What
options does Maggie have at this point?
17: Maggie’s Walk to the East River (54-56)
| 47. During Maggie’s walk to
the East River, you can trace the stages in her descent: list the
various potential ‘johns’ whom she passes. (54-56): Maggie's Descent
- Could Maggie have done anything to
interrupt this slide down the slippery slope?
18: Pete’s Apotheosis (56-60)
| 48. How does Pete receive
49. What is he babbling about throughout the scene?
19: “Mag’s Dead!” (60-61)
| 50. What is Mary’s reaction
when she finds out that Mag is dead?
51. What do her fellow mourners demand from Mary?
Black, R.W. "Vice and Immorality." International Journal of Ethics 1 (1891): 459-74. JSTOR. 18 March 2008 .
Crane, Stephen. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (A Story of New York). 1893. Ed. Kevin J. Hayes. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1999.
Crapsey, Edward. "Prostitution." 1872. Hayes 276-85.
Croly, Jane Cunningham. "Senate Testimony from 'Jennie June.'" 1885. Hayes 217-26.
Hughes, Rupert. "The Justification of Slum Stories." 1895. Hayes 327-33.