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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 12 | Summary



Maggie and Pete attend a show and drink beer. Her dependency on Pete grows apparent: "From her eyes had been plucked all look of self-reliance." Meanwhile, Pete "could appear to strut even while sitting still," becoming increasingly "lordly" and gracious in Maggie's eyes. She tells him of her struggles at home, and he presses her arm reassuringly, saying of Jimmie and the mother, "Dey was damn jays."

The music of the show makes Maggie dream of a better future, contemplating the relationship between her contemptible boss and Pete's "strong protecting fists" and "man-subduing eyes." She does not feel like "a bad woman" so long as Pete adores her, which he professes to do. He even feels proud when other men look admiringly at Maggie.

When other men try to catch her eye, "Maggie considered she was not what they thought her." Concerned they might think she is a prostitute, she focuses completely on Pete, certain he is a better man than the others. As they leave the show, Maggie passes two women who are "painted and [whose] cheeks had lost their roundness"—prostitutes. "With a shrinking movement," Maggie draws back her skirts to avoid contact with the painted women.


The narrator points out that the clubs Pete takes Maggie to are becoming increasingly less savory—earlier on he took her to see family-friendly plays, but this venue appears to house a more risqué burlesque show, as well as prostitutes. Crane uses the setting of the clubs and halls as an external representation of how Pete and Maggie's relationship is changing. This chapter gives the reader a glimpse of Maggie after she has left home, and the narrator hints now that Pete "has" her, he feels he needs to do less to impress her. Maggie, for her part, is now completely beholden to Pete for her survival and security. The narrator observes "from her eyes had been plucked all look of self-reliance."

By setting this chapter in a more unsavory venue, Crane highlights that Maggie's sense of security may be an illusion—because now she is only one step away from "going to the devil" herself if she needs to support herself. Maggie also seems to be slowly realizing just how dependent she is on Pete for security, but she remains innocent in her belief he will protect and take care of her now that they are living together. The narrator notes "she imagined a future, rose-tinted, because of its distance from all that she previously had experienced." Even though Maggie has a sneaking sense of uncertainty, she maintains a resolute hope that all will turn out well in spite of it. Again Crane raises the question of whether this sense of innocence and hope will, in fact, doom her.

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