Maggie A Girl of the Streets: Novel Summary: Chapter 4

Time passes. The baby Tommie dies and goes to his grave clutching a flower that his sister steals for his tiny casket. Jimmie becomes a hardened young man who wears a permanent sneer. “He never conceived a respect for the world,” we are told, “because he had begun with no idols that it had smashed.” One day he and a companion happen in at a church where the minister is preaching to an indifferent lot of men waiting for soup tickets. The minister tells his congregation that they are all damned to hell and Jimmies companion later remarks that if he ever met God he would ask for a million dollars and a bottle of beer. Jimmies primary occupation as a young man is to stand on street corners and watch the world go by, dreaming “blood-red dreams” of the pretty women and despising any finely dressed man. He comes to believe that all fine things are signs of weakness and that obvious Christians and aristocrats are the most despicable creatures on the face of the earth. He fears nothing. His father dies. Soon afterward he takes a job as a truck driver in the city and is given charge of two horses and a large truck. He enters freely into the violent and chaotic world of the citys truck drivers and develops the opinion that the police exist simply to persecute him. He quarrels often with the authorities and receives numerous beatings and arrests for his trouble. He learns to despise the streetcars and develops the singular habit of fixing his stare on some distant object before beginning a long journey. He resolves never to move out of anyone or anythings way and swears at pedestrians who fails to heed his approach. He fights often and willingly with other drivers who refuse to yield the way. Her fears and respects only fire engines with their physical power to smash through anything in their path. As much as he fears the fire engines, however, he respects them as well. The sound of the gong from an approaching fire engine thrills him to the core of his being. Two women in different parts of the city claim, without knowing the other, that Jimmie is the father of their baby and that he must marry them. Jimmie, however, ignores these claims upon his freedom and has little regard for the women. He seems to have no dreams of anything beyond the world of the Bowery but on one occasion he is heard to remark with something approaching wonder: “Deh moon looks like hell, dont it?”
Analysis of Chapter 4
This chapter describes Jimmies development from an adolescent into a young man. As he enters adulthood Jimmies conception of the world coalesces around the ideals of violence. As a young man he is aimless and is content simply to scoff at society and what he comes to consider the false virtues – fine dress and high ideals – that it supports. This is clearly shown in the description of his hatred for obvious dandies and Christians. Jimmie has grown to view the world in Darwainistic terms in which strength is the key to survival. As a truck driver he operates under the premise that all things that impede his path, from pedestrians to other cabs, are despicable and worthy of slander or destruction. The authors observation that Jimmie never developed any respect for the world because it offered him no higher ideals (i.e. idols) to challenge is particularly significant in regard to Jimmies fear of fire engines. Because he fears the engines power to destroy his coach he comes to respect them. Thus, the one ideal that Jimmie holds to be true is that of strength and as a young man the only thing that he considers strong enough to warrant his respect is a fire engine. He certainly lacks respect for the women he uses for pleasure and then discards. The only indication that he is sensitive to anything beyond his own needs and desires comes at the end of the chapter in his wistful (but not repeated) observation of the moon