Maggie A Girl of the Streets: Novel Summary: Chapter 15

A downtrodden woman walks slowly down a busy street full of rushing people and busy horse cars. It is obvious from her behavior that she is searching for someone. At every saloon she waits outside the door and looks closely at the men going in and out. The men dont notice her and go about their business in ignorance of her scrutiny. All the while the womans expression is that of a sardonic grin – shadowy and hard. She encounters Jimmie and calling him by name accosts him in the street. She moans that she has been looking for him all day but Jimmie quickens his pace and attempts to leave her behind. The woman does not relent, however. Jimmie barks at her: “Ah, dont bodder me! Good Gawd!” Not deterred the woman begs Jimmies attention and he savagely turns on her. Jimmie call her by name, Hattie, and puts her off with several rude slanders. Hattie beseeches him and touches his arm but he yells: “Oh, go to hell” before entering a saloon (where she wouldnt be allowed). A few moments later he sneaks out the back door and is amused to see Hattie still waiting in front.
At home Jimmie finds that Maggie has returned and Mary is brutally mocking and deriding her. Maggie is obviously shaken but this does not deter Mary whose thunderous denunciations of her daughter bring the other tenement residents to observe. The residents watch as though they are viewing a play and they comment to each other and offer opinions freely. One womans baby begins to crawl toward Maggie but the frightened mother grabs her wayward child away from the ruined girl with a loud cry of alarm. The mother presents her daughter as though she were an exhibit on display. “Dere she stands,” she cries pointing an accusatory figure at Maggie. Seeing her brother Maggie pitifully says his name but he steps back from her. “Well, now, yer a hell of a ting aint yeh?” he says with a sanctimonious air. Hearing this, Maggie leaves the room and as she does so a woman snatches a baby out of her path lest she dirty it with her touch. As Maggie leaves other residents peer curiously out from their doorway. Only the old woman on the next floor speaks to her however and invites her to stay the night with her. All the while Maggies mothers laughter rings in the young girls ears.
Analysis of Chapter 15
This chapter begins with the seemingly irrelevant scene in which Jimmie rejects and avoids one of his former lovers – a downtrodden woman whose need for succor is plain. Appearing as it does, however, between the scene in which Pete leaves Maggie for Nell and then Maggies unwelcome return to the apartment it serves to underscore the societal convention that ordained that fallen women should expect pity from no quarter least of all their family and former lovers. It also serves to foreshadow Maggies eventual attempt to return to Pete.
Crane explicitly relates the scene in which Mary castigates her daughter to that of the melodramatic plays that Maggie and Pete saw. Contrary to what Maggie believed then, however, she is not the poor heroine who is saved but the evil character who the audience, in this case the neighbors, scorn and reject. Just as Maggie previously pulled her skirt away from a prostitute the neighbor woman pulls her baby away from Maggie. Jimmie rejects his sister as brutally as he rejected Hattie at the beginning of the chapter.