Study Guide for Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1892)
by Stephen Crane

Chapter 1: The Street Fight (3-6)

Paragraph: Describe the situation of children who grow up in the Rum Alley ghetto.

1. Who wins the pitched fisticuffs for the honor of Rum Alley?
2. Who comes to Jimmie’s rescue
3. How does Jimmie's Dad's react when he finds out his son has been brawling? 

(Does the arrival of adults make matters better or worse?)


Chapter 2: The Johnson Family (6-9)

4. Who are the members of the Johnson family?
5. Who is in charge of the Johnson’s happy home? (7)
6. What do the kids get fed for dinner? What does Mrs. Johnson have?


Chapter 3: Jimmie’s Evening Adventure (10-13)

7. What does the old lady who lives next door to the Johnsons do for a living?
8. What happens to the pail of beer that Jimmie buys for her? (11)
9. Describe what Jimmie sees when he creeps back into his apartment? 


Chapter 4: Jimmie’s Determined Existence  (13-16)

10. What happened to the baby Tommie?
11. What happened to Mr. Johnson?
12. How does Mrs. Johnson now support her family? (Why is she now famous in the neighborhood?)


  • Can you pinpoint a moment in Jimmie’s development when he could have altered the final shape of his character?

 Jimmie’s Adolescent Education:

the inexperienced fibers of the boy’s eyes were hardened at an early age.” (10)

Jimmie's Religion: 
13. How effective is the church’s intervention in Jimmie’s life? (13)

Jimmie's Education:

14. How does he spend most of his time as a teenager? (14) Why doesn't Jimmie ever go to school?

Jimmie on the Job:

15. What job does Jimmie finally land? 
16. Describe how Jimmie learns to deal with traffic.

Jimmie and the Law:

17. How does Jimmie eventually get in trouble with the law? (16) What is the only thing in Jimmie's world which fills him with awe?

Chapter 5: Maggie Blossoms ‘in a mud puddle’ (16-19)

18. What is the first thing that Jimmie tells his sister when he realizes that she has blossomed into ‘a puty good looker’(16)? What does he mean?


  • Can you pinpoint a moment in Maggie's development into adulthood when she could have altered the final shape of her character?
Maggie's Job:
19. Describe what work in the sweatshop is like. (Did she have any trouble finding a job?)

Maggie’s Beau Ideal of a Man:

20. Describe what Maggie sees when she meets sneering Pete for the first time? (17) What do you see?
21. What tale does Pete tell to impress Maggie? He struts his stuff (17-19) 
22. How does Maggie measure herself at this moment?

Chapter 6: The Knight in Shining Armor (19-22)

Maggie and Pete's Romance:

23. Why is Maggie attracted to Pete? (Look at the way she describes him and then again here. Now, listen to the way he talks. (What is Crane's point?))
24. How does Pete makes his move?
25. What does Maggie believe she must do to make herself worthy of Pete’s affection?  Is this a moment of insight for Maggie? (19-20) What does she dream about while working at the factory?

Chapter 7: Pete and Maggie at the Vaudeville Show (22-25)

Maggie and Pete's Romance:

26. Where does Pete take Maggie on their first date? What does Maggie think when Pete insists that she be brought a big glass of beer
27. Name some of the acts in the show. Describe Maggie's reactions to them.
  • a singer attired in some half dozen skirts, each of which she removes
  • a ventriloquist  ( "Do dose little men talk?")
  • two sisters sing a church duet supplemented by erotic dance.
  • a woman of debatable age sings a negro melody
  • a man sings about Britain being annihilated by America and Ireland bursting her bonds
  • The Star-Spangled Banner!
  • a small fat man roars a song wildly waving a glossy silk hat and throwing leers
28. What is Pete’s response when Maggie won’t kiss him goodnight?
29.  On their subsequent dates Pete and Maggie go to dime museums (freak shows), to a menagerie in Central Park, and the Metropolitan Museum. Pete only likes the monkeys at the menagerie. What would Darwin think of this encounter?

Chapter 8: Maggie’s Sweatshop Reveries; The Melodrama Show (25-28)


  • Look carefully at the moment when Maggie realizes the future which awaits her in the factory. Has she recognized her situation in life?  Is Pete her route out of the ghetto? Does she have any other options?
  • Melodrama and Maggie: Think about what Crane is up to when he describes Maggie's reaction to seeing the melodrama show.  Remember that Maggie herself is a character in a melodrama. Is he hinting at a way for her to escape the plot in which she is enmeshed? Should she behave like the character with whom she identifies in the show?
29. Describe the key moments Maggie treasures in the melodrama show?
  • Overview: What are we to make of Crane’s brutal ridicule of the poor? Is his stereotyping justifiable? What does he find most contemptible about Jimmie, Pete and Maggie? Could he be as savage in his depiction of the impoverished today? (Imagine Pete as a black man or as an Hispanic?)

Chapter 9: Mama Goes on a Bender (28-31) 

31. What event finally convinces Maggie to leave home and live with Pete? (31) Did she have any choice in the matter? What curse rings in her ear when she leaves? 


  • What is the only virtue which Mary Johnson possesses? Why is this particular virtue so important to tenement culture?

Chapter 10: Jimmie’s Sense of Family Honor (32-34)

32. What line has Maggie crossed when she sleeps with Pete? (Carefully consider the old neighbor's gleeful gossip and its effect on Jimmie. Why is a young woman’s reputation given such emphasis? Is a young woman’s virtue a potential path out of poverty?)
33. How does Mother Johnson respond? How about Jimmie? (Note that he has committed the same sin several times.)

Chapter 11: The Bar Fight (34-39)

34. Describe the build-up to the fight? (What makes it so funny?) How does Crane describe Pete, Jimmie and Jimmie’s friend at the height of the bar fight? (38) What is Crane’s point? Why does he focus so intently on this scene?

Chapter 12:  Maggie and Pete at the 'Hall of Irregular Shape' (39-41)

35. Does Maggie have any sense of Pete’s readiness to dump her as she sits with him at the club? What is she thinking of instead?
36. What indications should she have noticed? To what kind of club has he taken her? (41)


  • What is the primary obstacle to Maggie achieving the insight necessary to understand her situation? What makes her unable to accomplish this goal? Do you hold her responsible?

Chapter 13: Maggie’s Mortal Sin: “Queering” the Johnsons’ Reputation (41-44)

37. How does Mary plan to save face in the building? Why does the precinct judge think Mary must have forty-two daughters? Why will Rum Alley society accept prodigal sons but not prodigal daughters? (43)
38. What does Jimmie admit to himself but no one else about Maggie’s fall? (44)

Chapter 14: The Hilarious Hall: Nell Steals Pete (44-48)

39. Again, Crane devotes considerable space to describing the riotous atmosphere of ‘the hilarious hall’ where Maggie will lose Pete. (44) What is Crane’s purpose?
40. Describe Nellie. What makes her so interested in Pete? How does her approach towards life (and men) differ from Maggie’s? What does she think of Maggie?
41. How does Maggie respond to getting dumped?


  • What could Maggie have learned from Nellie? Would that have saved her?

Chapter 15: The Return of the Prodigal Daughter (48-51)

42. Who accosts Jimmie on the street before he arrives home to discover the return of the prodigal daughter? (49)
43. How is Maggie driven from home? (50-51) What is Crane’s attitude towards the scene? Does he treat this moment as a great tragedy?

Chapter 16: Pete’s Brief Struggle of Conscience (Any glimmers for Maggie?) (51-54)

44. How does Pete explain to himself the violence of the Johnson’s anger? (51)
45. Why is he afraid for his job when Mag comes by to confront him at the bar? (52) What does he tell her?
46. To whom does she turn? Is this a moment of recognition for her? (53)


  • What has Maggie realized? What options does Maggie have at this point? 

Chapter 17: Maggie’s Walk to the East River (54-56)

47. During Maggie’s walk to the East River, you can trace the stages in her descent: list the various potential ‘johns’ whom she passes. (54-56): Maggie's Descent


  • Could Maggie have done anything to interrupt this slide down the slippery slope?

Chapter 18: Pete’s Apotheosis (56-60)

48. How does Pete receive his comeuppance?
49. What is he babbling about throughout the scene? 

Chapter 19: “Mag’s Dead!” (60-61)

50. What is Mary’s reaction when she finds out that Mag is dead?
51. What do her fellow mourners demand from Mary?

Black, R.W. "Vice and Immorality." International Journal of Ethics 1 (1891): 459-74. JSTOR. 18 March 2008 .

Crane, Stephen. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (A Story of New York). 1893. Ed. Kevin J. Hayes. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1999.

Crapsey, Edward. "Prostitution." 1872. Hayes 276-85.

Croly, Jane Cunningham. "Senate Testimony from 'Jennie June.'" 1885. Hayes 217-26.

Hughes, Rupert. "The Justification of Slum Stories." 1895. Hayes 327-33.