Maggie A Girl of the Streets


Throughout history women have lived a life of depending on men to take care of them and have carried the stigma of being known as the weaker sex. Things have changed for the better since the 1800?s when Stephen Crane wrote his book Maggie: A Girl of the Streets. Women now have the freedom to work and have careers without being looked down at. Here in the book, Stephen Crane writes a story in which the three main female characters represent the different lifestyles in the society of the 1800?s. It was rare that women had a job in those days but as Maggie?s brother put it, ?"Yeh?ve edder got te go te hell or go te work!"? (Crane 17). Either way by going to work Maggie was in a hellish environment that was crowded with other female workers. All the woman were not happy and were all looked down upon by the upper class. These woman had to work to survive (NO WORK NO FOOD)! It was very rare in those days for women to support themselves. In those days it was expected that women who lived at home had to give all their earnings to their parents to help support the family. They were given just enough for lunch money and very little spending money. The rest was for family living expenses. Working at the collar and cuff company Maggie realized that if she worked there too long she would become like the "grizzled" women there. "She began to see the bloom upon her cheeks as valuable" (Crane 26). Maggie?s beauty is the key of getting out of the slums that she comes from. "The girl, Maggie, blossomed in a mud puddle. She grew up to be a most rare and wonderful production of a tenement district, a pretty girl" (16). Back in the time of the story beauty is all that a poor women had to escape the lifestyle that she was accustomed to. When men were looking for a wife they would look for someone that was beautiful and attractive. From reading the story it is clear that Maggie desperately wants to be married so that she can leave the present life she knows to get a new one. Marriage is one of her only options to escape her life of poverty and an abusive and alcoholic family. Maggie sees her chance to escape when Pete takes notice of her. ?"Say, Mag. I?m stuck on yer shape. It?s outa sight"? (19). Jumping into this relationship wholeheartedly Maggie went to extreme measures to win Pete?s heart. Now that she saw that Pete showed interest in her she recognized that he was probably accustomed to finer things in life. And with this realization she began for the first time to notice how tattered and hideous her home was. Although money was tight she used what little money she had to make a lambrequin to put on the mantle over the stove in the kitchen. She did this in hopes of fixing the place up to Pete?s liking. Also, by doing this she hoped to show Pete what a good housewife she could be. Maggie risked all that she had to gain the freedom that she desperately desired. She paid the ultimate price when she yielded to Pete?s advances. Thinking that he would never leave her and he would take care of her, she left her family and job to be with him. This ultimately cost her everything, not only did she lose her job, she also lost her family and her beauty. Pete displayed how important beauty was to a man in that he left Maggie for a more beautiful woman. Maggie had no one else to turn to, so as a means of survival she found herself walking the streets as a prostitute, desperate for money. The very thing that she feared came upon her. The beauty that she once displayed was gone. Feeling lonely and humiliated, she ends her life by jumping in the river. Nellie, "a woman of brilliance and audacity" (45), represents the woman that does not have to lower herself to work in a dismal job to survive. It is obvious by her attitude and her appearance that she has wealth of her own. Nellie referred to Pete as a fool. As soon