Maggie A Girl of the Streets: Novel Summary: Chapter 19

This final chapter opens with a woman sitting at a table eating. An unkempt soiled man enters and says: “Well, Mags dead.” The woman responds: “Deh hell she is,” and finishes her meal before she begins to cry. The man is Jimmie and the woman is Mary and the neighbors come running at the sound of her lamentations. She repeats over and over that she can remember when Maggies feet were as big as a thumb and she wore worsted boot, a detail that seems particularly important to her. The other women of the tenement house share her grief and make an effort to tidy up the apartment. One particularly sympathetic woman, identified as Miss Smith, enters in a black gown and using the vocabulary of mission preachers she embraces Mary and shares her grief. She comforts Mary with the knowledge that Maggie was a fallen girl, unkind to her mother, and has gone to a place where her sins will be judged. Mary rises to her feet, stumbles about the room and grabs Maggies baby shoes from the wall. The sight of them causes all the women to break out anew in sobbing and wailing. Mary commands Jimmie to fetch his sisters body so they can put the baby shoes on her and though Jimmie sees no point to the task he wearily agrees. The women tell Mary that she must forgive her wayward child and that she has gone to a place where her sins will be judged. Mary relents and proclaims loudly “Oh, yes, Ill fergive her! Ill fergive her!”
Analysis of Chapter 19
This chapter is staged like the final act of a melodrama. Mary waits to finish her meal before beginning the overwrought performance of mourning. The neighbors, Miss Smith in particular, do their part to bring Mary to the conclusion that she must forgive her wayward daughter because it is not the task of the living to judge the dead. Knowing that Marys cruel treatment of her daughter led to her downfall the reader is left with the impression of a woman who is conforming to the expectations of her role without the possibility of realizing the truth of her daughters life. Cranes use of irony is prevalent in this chapter. That Mary should show tenderness toward her daughters baby shoes but never to her daughter and be vindicated by her neighbors for a display of affection after the fact of her death are both excellent examples of the hard irony that suffuses the entire story.