Thesis Statement: This essay will account to have the theme, relationships along with the cruel reality of poverty that was examined in Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl on the Streets.
Maggie: A girl of the Streets was a short story written by Stephen Crane. From its perceptive, one accounts that growing up in a brutal urban environment can have multiple outcomes in society because some people can end up dead. Some people can get out of that situation and become successful. This short story is about a young girl named Maggie who grows up in the lower Manhattan tenement district; which is known to be a ghetto and for its dangerous environment. Maggie herself grew up in Rum Alley with her abusive and alcoholic mother Mary and her brother Jimmie. Jimmie used to be protective of Maggie when they were kids, but once they both grew up that changed completely and he did not care for her as he should have. They both had a little brother Tommie but he died, and years later his father died too.
Her mother, Mary was a horrible mother to these children because she was almost never sober and had no patience for them either. An example of this would be when Maggie accidentally broke one of her plates in the kitchen, and “Good Gawd,” she howled. Similarly, the death of Tommie, for example, was described as insignificant and also dull because they just put him in a white coffin, buried him and everyone moved on. These violent outbursts that Mary had caused her youngest son to die which is why she is also responsible for Maggie’s outcome.
Jimmie was the whole character that, throughout the novel, Maggie genuinely cared about. When they were kids, she always used to complain about Jimmie fighting the other kids all the time, and this showed that she cared about him. This is a perfect example of how Maggie showed her concern for the well-being of her brother. She also tries to make him realize the consequences of his actions even though he does not seem to care. Maggie was very scared because whenever Jimmie would get into trouble fighting, they would all get in trouble as well, especially since Mary, their mother drank all the time. Her drinking always led her to have a violent attitude towards her children and her husband as well.
As the years progressed in the story, the reader can see the changes each character takes and how they adapt to the environment they live in. Mary was similar because she was a drunk who was known by everyone in the police department and was always in court. Mary would still make up excuses and apologies to justify her actions, and everyone already knew how she was, and it was not a surprise to see her there at all. This particular passage describes a young woman who is the complete opposite of the environment surrounding her. The reader can also speculate a bright future for her because unlike Jimmie or Mary, she had potential to succeed (Simoneaux). She got a job at a factory making collars and cuffs where she worked all day and went home at night. She was a decent woman at this point in the story which is why it is shocking to see, what becomes of her in the end.
Jimmie and Mary are not the only ones who are responsible for Maggie’s death; Pete is also accountable for this tragedy because he took an interest and decided to pursue her. This relationship they both had affected her because she ended up developing feelings for him. Pete was a bartender who was friends with Jimmie, and his confidence and self-possessed behavior was the reason Maggie found him so fascinating. Maggie then started worrying about the state her house was in; which was never an issue before until Pete began to pursue her. A lambrequin was known in the 1890’s as a short curtain, and this is what Maggie hung over the stove in her kitchen (Simoneaux). Pete, however, did not show much interest in her house at all he was just interested in Maggie. Things took a different turn when the family found out about their relationship.
On one of Mary’s many drunken evenings she found out about Maggie’s relationship with Pete, and she did not approve of it. She immediately started cursing Maggie. Just like that, her mother very bluntly told her to leave the house and to just go with him. This is another example of why Mary is ultimately responsible for Maggie’s death in the end. Her lack of compassion and love for her daughter is what led to such a horrible outcome for Maggie.
Jimmie who was supposed to be her protector and defender did the exact opposite of what any brother would do and took his mother’s side. He was so angry that he cursed Maggie as well and even went to the bar that Pete worked in and got into a fight with him. At this point, even the neighbors noticed that Maggie did not come home and started to gossip about her. (Saja, 2012). These thoughts show that he is supposed to hate his sister just like his mother does, but on the inside, it seems as if he starts feeling a little bit of regret that does not last very long. Jimmie’s ego blinds him from doing what is right; which is defending his sister against his mother and everyone else. This is the reason why he is equally guilty as his mother over Maggie’s death.
Pete now is all Maggie has, and she has no one else to turn to for help or for a place to stay ever since her mother told her to leave the house and not come back. Unfortunately, the relationship Maggie has with Pete starts to change as soon as he meets up with an old friend (Utami). Pete, of course, is a very confident character and cares more about looks than personality so as soon as Nellie put Maggie’s looks down, he lost interest at once. He felt embarrassed when someone would laugh at his taste in women that he would make excuses and say those women were only temporary. Pete at this point had no consideration towards Maggie at all and did not take responsibility for whatever could happen to Maggie. Pete not only ruined her relationship with her family, but he also destroyed her reputation. Everyone was talking wrong about Maggie, not just her family, but her neighbors as well.
Maggie attempted to return home, but could not because she was rejected by her family and neighbors and had no choice, but to wander the streets. Pete no longer thinks of Maggie as someone respectable to be getting involved with so he is saving his dignity by pushing her away. This is towards the end where the author starts to refer to Maggie as that girl instead of using her name (Crane, 2006). He does this because since Maggie is left wandering the streets and with nowhere else to go has no choice, but to prostitute herself to survive. One evening as she was wandering the streets she was killed by a man who was following her. This horrible fate is what became of Maggie.
Soon everyone in the tenement found out about Maggie’s death and started feeling sorry for her and that she was finally going to a place where her sins would be judged. Everyone was telling Mary that she should forgive her child for being so sorry. This idea was ironic because it should have been the other way around and everyone who misjudged Maggie should be apologizing. Maggie became a prostitute because her family and Pete who was the primary cause of her despair turned their backs on her. She had no choice, but to do such things to survive otherwise she would have died even sooner in the story. This was an unfortunate outcome for Maggie because in the end she did not deserve to suffer and in the beginning, she had mass potential. If she would have perhaps been able to get out of Rum Alley, she would still be alive. It is also ironic that Mary is the one in the end who says she will forgive Maggie. It is she who should be asking for forgiveness and blame herself for her death. Jimmie should have been a better brother and have taken her away somewhere and not left her on the streets. Pete should have never laid his eyes on Maggie if he knew she was not going to be important in his life at all. These people are all equally guilty of her death, and nothing will change that.
At last, one concludes that it can be complicated to succeed in an environment where there is the constant crime, death, and violence. Reading this short story made me see the harsh reality of what happens to most people who live in tenements like these. It made me appreciate more the place I live in, and the fact that I was brought up by wonderful parents and I did not end up in the streets like Maggie. There are exceptions for people who live in a similar environment to Maggie’s and still work hard and end up succeeding in life, so there is always still hope. This, of course, can be hard sometimes, but not an impossible thing to accomplish. If someone has a dream and is devoted to performing and work hard for it, they will get to their goal eventually. This short story motivates me to do better for myself and not settle into the environment of my town. It is always important to aim high in life to have a better future.
Crane, Stephen. Maggie: A girl of the streets. Broadview Press, 2006.
Saja, Syahri, and M. Parlindungan Purba. “The Social Problems In Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl Of The Streets.” The Social Problems In Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl Of The Streets.
Anggiarini, Utami. “American Social Condition In The Late Of 19th Century Found In Spephen’s Crane Maggie: A Girl Of The Streets.” American Social Condition In The Late Of 19th Century Found In Spephen’s Crane Maggie: A Girl Of The Streets.
Simoneaux, Katherine G. “COLOR IMAGERY IN CRANE’S” MAGGIE: A GIRL OF THE STREETS”.” CLA Journal 18.1 (1974): 91-100.