Maggie A Girl of the Streets: Novel Summary: Chapter 3

Jimmie and the old woman listen until the noise from the fight fades. The old woman is a beggar who has practiced her trade on Fifth Avenue for many years. She earns a few pennies every day. Once she retrieved a dropped purse but even this seeming good luck had turned foul when the police caught her with the supposedly stolen goods. As such, she has nothing good to say about the police. She gives Jimmie seven pennies and a bucket to fetch beer. She tells Jimmie that if his mother continues on her rampage he can stay with her that night. Jimmie goes to a nearby saloon, gets the bucket filled with beer and is on his way back to the old womans apartment when he encounters his drunken father. Despite Jimmies protests the father grabs the bucket and drinks it off in one long draught. Jimmie curses his father but the man laughs, throws the empty bucket at him and promises to beat him soon. The father staggers toward home and Jimmie cautiously returns to the tenement building. He creeps past the old womans dooer and then listens at his familys door. He hears his parents arguing and his father yells “Go teh hell”. Something crashes loudly against the door and Jimmie runs downstairs where he cowers and listens to the sounds of struggle coming from the apartment. He sees other residents of the building poke their heads out of their doors and more than one of them remarks “Ol Johnsons raising hell agin.” Jimmie waits until long after the noise has died down and then he creeps back to the apartment. In the red glare of the stove he sees the broken furniture strewn about the apartment. His mother is asleep in the middle of the floor and his fathers sleeping body hangs limply across a chair. He cautiously approaches his mother, terrified she will awake, and observes her face swollen from drinking, her painful breathing and her harsh expression. Fascinated, he looks directly into her face and to his horror Marys eyes open. Jimmie falls back howling with fear but the woman flounders and then renews her snoring. Jimmie hears his sister meekly calling to him from the other room and he sees that she shivers with fear. Maggies eyes are red with weeping. As the two children crouch together on the floor and stare wordlessly at their sleeping mother until dawn, afraid that she will awake.
Analysis of Chapter 3
The roles of father and son have been subverted and corrupted by a tradition of violence in which the strong rule the home and need not justify their actions to those who cannot physically best them. Jimmies father forcibly takes the bucket of beer despite his sons protests and there is nothing Jimmie can do to stop him. Without the bucket of beer Jimmie cannot return to the old woman and he must, therefore, return to his family and the violence. The neighbors are both audience and judges and their commentary places the dysfunctional family in the context of their peers. The Johnsons violence very much part of the social fabric of the tenement. From this scene of public scrutiny, Crane turns the narrative inward upon the tender yet disturbing image of Jimmie and Maggie watching their sleeping mother in the red light of the glowing stove. They watch not because they cherish her but because they fear her like a monster. Maggie and Jimmie are living in hell – a point that Crane emphasizes with his description of the glowing red stove that permeates the apartment and, more blatantly, with the fathers ironic explanation to the men at the bar that he drinks because his home is a “reglar livin hell!”