Maggie: a Girl of the Streets

Romina Ferrante

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane is a short novel about a young girl and the people in her life. Despite its brevity, this book displays many significant themes that its author intertwines in the story plot. Such themes are determinism, hypocrisy, false morality, self-deception, and appearance verses reality.

Maggie?s mother, Mrs. Johnson, is a symbol of hypocrisy in the story. She lost her husband, and had to raise her children by herself in poverty. She drinks to heal her pain so that she doesn?t have to face reality. In her drunken state, she becomes intimidating and overwhelming, even to her children. She is insane and can be described as an animal, often gossiped about in the neighborhood. How can a woman who is an overweight, brutal, alcoholic be a role model for or critic of her children?

It is Mrs. Johnson?s responsibility as a mother to care for her children in every way possible, and love them no matter what. However, she does not understand or live by this philosophy. She disowns her own daughter when Maggie becomes a prostitute, and throws her out of the house. It is evident that Maggie is only trying to survive in any way possible after her boyfriend, Pete, leaves her heartbroken and discouraged. She is exposed to this awful and forbidden lifestyle after being abandoned by Pete, her lover, who is constantly surrounded by prostitutes while working as a bartender in the "classy" bars. Because Maggie doesn?t know any better, she thinks of Pete as her "knight" who has swept her off her feet. He is only a charmer who is fake and shallow, but Maggie fails to see his faults. The reader can tell from the beginning of the novel that Pete will disrespect and mistreat her.

Mrs. Johnson never gives Maggie the support that she needed, and neither does her brother, Jimmie. With an alcoholic mother, who can be referred to as a savage, and a violent brother; Maggie attempts to escape from the constant chaos in her home. Mrs. Johnson is constantly worried about her reputation and what her neighbors think. She doesn?t want the neighbors to think she accepts a daughter who sells her body for money. She wants to be seen as "proper" and the ideal mother. Yet she drinks regularly and goes into violent rages, throwing things around, and destroying her house.

It is contradictory that Mrs. Johnson never reprimands Jimmie for the trouble that he is involved in. If anybody could comprehend and associate with Maggie?s feelings of loneliness and hopelessness, it should have been her mother. Mrs. Johnson is too preoccupied with her addiction to alcohol and trying to impress the neighborhood to do anything beside condemn Maggie?s way of life. Mrs. Johnson thinks that she is the ideal mother who gave her children everything they needed and more. This is the false morality depicted in the novel since she was actually the opposite. She was selfish and disregarded Maggie and Jimmie. She was only concerned with herself and the way others portrayed her. In the conclusion of the novel, after Maggie has died, Mrs. Johnson claims to forgive her daughter for her actions. In actuality, Maggie?s actions were a result of her environment, and her mother should be to blame.