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Maggie: A Girl of the Streets | Study Guide

Stephen Crane

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Maggie: A Girl of the Streets | Chapter 10 | Summary



Jimmie knows it is not polite to ruin a friend's sister. Does Pete know? The old woman tells Jimmie how Maggie was crying when Pete brought her home late, asking if he loved her. His answer: "Oh, hell, yes." Jimmie goes upstairs to see the apartment tidied up, including the lambrequin in its place. Maggie's jacket and hat are gone. Jimmie wonders "for an instant, if some of the women of his acquaintance had brothers," but he quickly grows enraged. "But he was me frien'! I brought 'im here!" he fumes, then heads out to "kill deh jay." The mother blocks the door, but Jimmie tells her, "Well, Maggie's gone teh deh devil!" The mother does not believe it at first, but then damns her, saying, "May Gawd curse her forever." Jimmie tells the mother to pull herself together, but she replies, "Ah, who would t'ink such a bad girl could grow up in our fambly, Jimmie, me son." They talk about a neighbor girl who was ruined, but Jimmie claims Maggie is different somehow. This inspires him anew to beat up Pete: "I'll go t'ump hell outa deh mug what did her deh harm. I'll kill 'im!" As he passes, gossips in the hall are exchanging thoughts on Maggie's ruin, saying they always knew she was "bold" and not "straight," meaning good. Jimmie meets a friend who tries to talk him out of fighting Pete, suggesting it will turn into a brawl with a whole crowd. Jimmie is undeterred.


Both Maggie's family and her neighbors seem to fall under a collective amnesia about who she was before she left—her fall from grace is sudden and swift in their eyes, and Mary revises Maggie's childhood to paint her as someone who could never be trusted. The rumor of Maggie's alleged physical relationship with Pete only comes from a neighbor who claims she overheard Maggie begging Pete to tell her he loves her, by which it is inferred they are sleeping together.

Although the reader wonders if now Maggie can be safe and happy living with Pete, Crane also suggests he is also her only link to survival and safety at this point—she can't return home, and it's unlikely she could support herself on her factory job alone. Since Maggie now has a reputation of having a physical relationship outside of marriage, she is also considered "tarnished goods" to any future husband according to 19th-century society. Her reputation is also now a source of embarrassment to Jimmie and Mary, despite their own horrible behaviors. Jimmie's response is one of total hypocrisy when he briefly considers the girls he has gotten pregnant but quickly brushes the thought aside when it makes him uncomfortable to reconcile that those girls might have brothers who would be equally upset. The narrator notes, "He was trying to formulate a theory ... that all sisters, excepting his own, could advisedly be ruined." When confronted with his own conflicting thoughts and beliefs, Jimmie chooses to ignore them out of frustration.

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