Maggie: A Girl of the Streets | Study Guide

Stephen Crane

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Maggie: A Girl of the Streets | Chapter 15 | Summary



Hattie, the "forlorn woman," slowly searches the streets and saloon doors of the Bowery for Jimmie. She "encounter[s] him with an aggrieved air" and says she has been looking for him. He brushes her off and walks faster, saying, "Ah, don't bodder me! Good Gawd!" She follows him, perhaps alluding to promises he had made, "But, Jimmie ... yehs told me ye'd—" and touching his arm. Jimmie quickly becomes exasperated, saying, "Go chase yerself, fer Gawd's sake." He darts into a saloon and observes Hattie bobbing through the crowd, apparently unable to find him. Jimmie laughs with relief when he realizes he has eluded her.

Jimmie returns home to find the mother yelling at Maggie. The mother screams, "Lookut her!" repeatedly in "scoffing laughter." When they hear the mother's shouting, the neighbors all show up to have a look. Children approach with curiosity, and one baby touches Maggie's dress before its mother scoops it up indignantly. The mother puts on a show for the neighbors, pointing at Maggie and saying facetiously, "An' she was so good as to come home teh her mudder, she was! Ain' she a beaut'?" Maggie turns to Jimmie for support, but he shrinks back, saying, "Well, now, yer a hell of a t'ing, ain' yeh?" Maggie leaves.

The old woman on the second floor offers Maggie shelter for the night, saying, "I ain' got no moral standin'." The commotion upstairs continues with "the mother's derisive laughter."


Although Maggie returns home, the reader senses there is no going home for her. Her only hope is to get Jimmie to help convince their mother to allow her to return. Jimmie, for his part, seems oblivious to the fact he similarly took up with a girl, Hattie, who has been desperately hounding him for help now that she has been deemed a "fallen" woman. While Jimmie has no issues being able to go home, Maggie must beg to be allowed back—essentially for being in the same position. Jimmie never has to take any responsibility for his actions. Here Crane highlights the cruel double standards of the era. As a result, Maggie has nowhere left to turn. Mary, for her part, is never forced to take responsibility for her horrible actions as a mother, either. As such, Crane questions the moral universe these characters live in and whether there can ever be any fairness or justice in it.

The Johnsons' neighbors also seem to enjoy the drama as a spectacle rather than come to Maggie's defense or rescue, emphasizing yet again the innate sense of survival of people living in the Bowery in this era. The narrator observes, "As [Maggie] passed down through the hall, she went before open doors framing more eyes strangely microscopic." Crane dangles the question of whether the neighbors are justified in their reaction since it is the only way of life they have ever known. Regardless, Maggie has now been rejected by her love, her family, and her neighbors, leaving her with little recourse to save herself.

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