Maggie: A Girl of the Streets | Study Guide

Stephen Crane

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Maggie: A Girl of the Streets | Chapter 13 | Summary



Jimmie returns home a few days after the fight with Pete. The mother is still raving about Maggie's "wickedness," as she had not yet returned home. When gossips had tried to glean information from the mother, she had cursed them or threatened them with violence. The mother laments, "When a girl is bringed up deh way I bringed up Maggie, how kin she go teh deh devil?" Jimmie cannot figure it out either. They agree Maggie was wicked and they never knew it. She had "a bad heart." They commiserate, the mother drinking from a "squdgy bottle" and remarking in disbelief, "Wid a home like dis an' a mudder like me, she went teh deh bad."

One day, Jimmie comes home nervous and wants to go find Maggie and bring her home to avoid the shame covering their family, saying "dis t'ing queers us!" The mother cannot believe her son would say such a thing to her and promises never to forgive Maggie for leaving. Jimmie wants to keep the scandal quiet and avoid the public scrutiny, saying, "It 'ud be better if we keep dis t'ing dark, see?" But the mother revels in how unhappy Maggie will be and how she will long to come home. Jimmie wonders again if any of his women have brothers but does not make a clear connection to his own circumstances.

The mother tells her tale of woe to neighbors and police justices to extract sympathy, "shedding large tears of sorrow," while Jimmie "publicly damned his sister that he might appear on a higher social plane."


Mary's obsession with Maggie's "wickedness" becomes a fixation for everything that has gone wrong in her life. She even uses it as a convenient excuse for her drunken troubles with the law as well as a way to garner sympathy from her neighbors. Maggie's decision to leave seems to cause Mary to have to examine her own influence on Maggie, and rather than deal with the fact she provided Maggie with a wretched childhood she chooses to accuse Maggie of being a horrible daughter in the face of how she "brought her up." Mary seems to believe she was an exemplary mother who deserves only obedience and respect from her children. In this light Mary is depicted as delusional and spiteful, especially when she bans Jimmie from bringing Maggie back home and claims she will never forgive her. In fact, the reader realizes, it is Maggie who has license to never forgive her mother for the abject childhood she put her through.

Crane highlights the scarce and difficult choices a girl like Maggie is faced with—remain in an abusive environment, endure a sullied reputation, or turn to prostitution to support herself. Jimmie, for his part, dimly tries to reconcile what befell his sister, but much like the uncomfortable reckoning with what he has likely done to someone else's sister, he pushes it out of his mind since "he could not conceive how under the circumstances his mother's daughter and his sister could have been so wicked."

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