Maggie: A Girl of the Streets | Study Guide

Stephen Crane

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Maggie: A Girl of the Streets | Chapter 6 | Summary



Pete notices Maggie, and tells her, "Say, Mag, I'm stuck on yer shape. It's outa sight." He further embellishes his stories of being "invincible in fights" for her benefit. The "swing of the shoulders" and his sneer make Pete seem like "a supreme warrior," and Maggie "marvelled at him and surrounded him with greatness." The men leave the apartment, and Maggie watches them from the window, believing Pete was a "formidable man who disdained the strength of a world full of fists ... He was a knight."

Maggie turns from the window to notice once again her ugly, dirty, and tattered home, beginning to see it all through Pete's eyes. She compares the shirt factory to Pete's "elegant occupation," which must bring him into contact with pretty girls and people of "money and manners." Anticipating he will visit again, Maggie uses some of her factory pay to buy "flowered cretonne for a lambrequin," fabric for a decorative drape. She hangs it on the mantel, hoping Pete will return on Sunday, but he does not. Now the lambrequin is a source of humiliation for Maggie—of course, it is not good enough for Pete.

A few days later Pete appears and tells Maggie he will take her to a show on Friday. She spends the remaining days fantasizing at work about Pete's life, including women, clothes, and lots of money: "He must live in a blare of pleasure. He had friends, and people who were afraid of him."

Friday evening arrives, and the mother has been drinking all day, swearing, and breaking the furniture. The lambrequin "lay in a bedraggled heap in the corner." Maggie finds her asleep. She wakes suddenly to accuse Maggie of staying out on the streets and tells her, "Yer gettin' teh be a reg'lar devil." When Pete arrives, Maggie is waiting amid the wreckage, including the blue ribbons on the curtains. Her mother curses her.


Maggie's newly discovered eyes for the squalor she lives in is only heightened as Pete continues to woo her and as he witnesses the display of her drunk mother. Maggie becomes increasingly critical of her life, sowing the seed of dissatisfaction she never seemed to experience growing up. Pete provides a contrast for Maggie, someone to impress and admire. The reader, however, begins to sense that Pete is essentially no better a man than Jimmie, but because he is new to Maggie he represents someone to project her hopes and ideals onto. Yet the reader senses that these hopes are destined to be shattered since Maggie doesn't seem to have any real-world experience of what it would mean to live a different life. Even her efforts to improve herself and her home are dashed, evidenced by the lambrequin, destroyed in one of the mother's drunken rampages. Crane highlights that despite Maggie's efforts, her life seems to always return to a baseline sense of cruelty and chaos she can never climb her way out of. Thus Crane hints at a sense of futility to her efforts, and the larger futility in maintaining hopes and ideals in the face of an uncaring world.

The relationship between Maggie and Pete doesn't seem equal in affection, as Pete seems to bask in the attention and worship Maggie bestows upon him. In return he takes her to shows and admires her appearance, which only serves to boost her low sense of self-worth. The narrator recalls, "Maggie marveled at him ... She vaguely tried to calculate the altitude of the pinnacle from which he must have looked down upon her." From the beginning, Crane establishes the imbalance of power between them, something Pete seems to sense and exploit to his advantage in order to keep Maggie hooked.

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