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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 9 | Summary



The mother stumbles out of a saloon, and urchins follow her, taunting her along the way. She makes her way to a door and knocks, calling out the woman inside for a fight. The occupant locks the door. The mother yells and kicks the door. Jimmie appears and tells her to come home. When he grabs her arm, they fight in the hall—"the mother and the son began to sway and struggle like gladiators"—while neighbors watch. When Maggie opens the door, Jimmie throws in the mother and follows. The spectators are disappointed.

Maggie hides in the other room listening to "crashes and curses" and suddenly hears a loud thump. She emerges to find Jimmie bruised and bloody and the mother on the floor screaming and crying. The main room is in shambles when Pete arrives. The mother curses Maggie, saying, "Yeh've gone teh deh devil, Mag Johnson ... Yer a disgrace teh yer people, damn yeh." Maggie just stares at her mother. The mother says, "Git out. I won't have sech as yehs in me house!" Pete tells Maggie it will all blow over in the morning and entreats her to come out and "have a hell of a time." Maggie takes a last look at the mess and leaves.


Maggie and Mary's relationship deteriorates for good in this chapter when Mary forces her daughter to leave for having "gone teh deh devil," assuming Maggie is sleeping with Pete outside of marriage. Mary is in constant search of things that aggravate her, and this provokes her more than anything else. Mary's shortsighted judgment does not extend to her own drunken behavior, however, which allows her to feel moralistic about her daughter's choices. Even though Mary appears to have descended even further into alcoholism and violence, she still feels superior to any promiscuous woman. Although Crane never alludes to the idea Maggie and Pete are having a physical affair—in fact, she rebuffed his kiss—the reader is left to wonder what the nature of their relationship is. Despite it, Maggie's decision to leave with Pete and live with him seals her reputation in the eyes of Mary, Jimmie, and their neighbors, branding her a woman with no morals. Crane takes great care to highlight the situational irony involved here—that a girl as sweet, kind, and innocent as Maggie would be seen in a harsher light than her abusive, alcoholic mother. For her part, Maggie's trusting nature seems to block her from seeing the dangers of the situation she is putting herself in—both when it comes to her reputation and her survival—should Pete decide to leave her.

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