Maggie A Girl of the Streets: Novel Summary: Chapter 5

Against all odds, Maggie grows to be a pretty girl a condition that does not escape the attention of the males of her neighborhood. One day her brother advises her that she “edder got teh go teh hell or go teh work!” so she obtains a position in a shop making collars and cuffs. At the workshop she sits upon a stool and toils over a sewing machine in a drab room with 20 other girls and at night she returns home to her inebriated mother. Mary becomes well known in the courts and many policemen come to know her by her first name. Her face is constantly swollen and red from drink. Jimmie takes his place as head of the family by doing as his father had done before him – returning home drunk, fighting with his family and passing out on the floor. One day Jimmie happens to meet his older friend Pete who promises to take Jimmie to a boxing match in Brooklyn. When Pete arrives at the apartment that evening Maggie watches her brothers friend carefully. Pete, who works as a bartender, is dressed smartly and carried himself with an air of one whose seen much of life and dismissed it. Pete tells Jimmie about various troublemakers hes thrown out of the bar and as Maggie listens to the story she contemplates anew her drab surroundings and wonders if Pete feels contempt for them.
Analysis of Chapter 5
The most surprising thing about this chapter is that Maggie turns out to be a beautiful girl. In this, Crane strays from the path of the pure Naturalist writer and allows that purity and beauty can emerge spontaneously and without reason. Whereas her brother enters the violent world of the truck drivers, Maggies workplace is more akin to a prison. The collar factory may not entail the dangers of the streets but by limiting her vision and circumscribing any hopes or dreams beyond the Bowery it effectively encloses Maggie and limits her potential. Its no surprise then that someone like Pete would be such a source of fascination for her. He is not only a man capable of defending himself but his fine clothes intimate to the girl, seemingly for the first time in her life, the possibility of a more colorful future. As a result, Maggie becomes conscience of the squalor of her surroundings and her insecurities about her own relative self worth and desirability.