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Maggie: A Girl of the Streets | Study Guide

Stephen Crane

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Course Hero. "Maggie: A Girl of the Streets Study Guide." Course Hero. 20 Sep. 2017. Web. 28 May 2023. <>.

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Course Hero. "Maggie: A Girl of the Streets Study Guide." September 20, 2017. Accessed May 28, 2023.


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Maggie: A Girl of the Streets | Chapter 3 | Summary



Jimmie and the old woman listen to the screams and roars of the mother beating Maggie. The old woman is known to beg for pennies on Fifth Avenue, using her ability to look virtuous and employing "a collection of 'God bless yehs' pitched in assorted keys of fervency." She had been arrested once when she kept the purse someone dropped and had "almost kicked the stomach out of a huge policeman." The old woman tells Jimmie to buy her "a can" and lets him sleep in her apartment.

Jimmie takes the pennies and a tin-pail to the bar to be filled with beer. His father is there, already drunk. He takes the pail from Jimmie, drinks the beer from it, and hits him in the head with the empty pail. Jimmie waits in the street until it is safe to sneak past the old woman's door. He waits outside his own door to listen for his parents, who start fighting again, hearing the crashing of breaking furniture. Jimmie fearfully darts away, and the neighbors peek out their doors to see what the ruckus is until they realize it is just the Johnsons again.

Back in the apartment, the mother and the father have passed out, and Jimmie approaches with caution. Suddenly the mother's eyes open and Jimmie screams and falls back. She resumes snoring. Jimmie crawls into the shadows, and Maggie creeps to him from the other room. She holds his arm, and they huddle together watching the mother all night "for they thought she need only to awake and all fiends would come from below."


Jimmie's encounter with the elderly neighborhood woman who allows him to stay with her initially seems hopeful—Crane sets her up as possibly the only adult with whom he might find solace and refuge. Yet the woman herself appears to be an alcoholic and barely capable of functioning on her own. Her care for Jimmie is less than altruistic, it seems, since he is the one who fetches her alcohol from the bar. When his own father steals the beer, Jimmie has run out of any safe places and must return home. Crane only allows hope to flare up for a brief moment. The theme of alcohol as both a coping mechanism and a vehicle for violent behavior is recurring, and Crane plants the notion that it is a mechanism the children will eventually turn to as well because the only possible role models they have abuse it.

Crane also continues to develop the idea that power lies in the hands of those physically stronger and louder, which leads the children to feel powerless and angry because of their inability to control their environment. The violence is depicted as cyclical, highlighted by the elderly neighbor's question to Jimmie as to who is currently hitting who in his house. Jimmie can only briefly find any respite from the violence before the cycle continues, and he is forced to return home. Crane also turns the idea of parents as benevolent, protective, care-taking figures on its head with his depiction of Mary as a mother who is constantly observed in fear by her own children due to her volatility and unpredictability. He notes, "The eyes of both [children] were drawn, by some force, to stare at the woman's face, for they though she need only to awake and all fiends would come from below." Crane hints that having to fear one's own mother in this way would only cause a constant and ongoing sensation of having nowhere safe to turn.

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