Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Other Tales of New York
Stephen Crane's first novel is the tale of a pretty young slum girl driven to brutal excesses by poverty and loneliness. It was considered so sexually frank and realistic, that the book had to be privately printed at first. It and GEORGE'S MOTHER, the shorter novel that follows in this edition, were eventually hailed as the first genuine expressions of Naturalism in American letters and established their creator as the American apostle of an artistic revolution which was to alter the shape and destiny of civilization itself.
The curriculet is being added to your library
Stephen Crane's writing reflects realism. In order to create this realism, he uses vivid descriptions, called imagery. Watch the video below to learn more about imagery, and as you read, picture in your mind what you are reading to get a sense of the realism through the strong imagery. (This annotation contains a video)
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently... Is there a word on this page you need to look up?
How did Jimmie's father react to the discovery that his son was fighting?
An urchin is a name for a young child, often poor, dirty, and a troublemaker. Does the way you imagined Jimmie and the other urchins match the picture of street urchins below? (This annotation contains an image)
You have seen a small glimpse into the life of this family of five. Based on what you have read, which word would NOT be a good descriptor of their life?
Maggie, Jimmie, and Tommie obviously live in a home where domestic violence is prevalent. Read the information below about the impact living in an abusive home can have on children. Do you see any of these effects in Maggie or Jimmie? (This annotation contains a link)
Crane obviously writes his characters' dialogue using dialect, which is when the spoken words of a character are written as they would be said, so standards of spelling and grammar may not be followed. What is the effect of dialect being used in this story?
Jimmie's and Maggie's parents both appear to abuse alcohol. Read about alcoholism below then see if there are signs of alcoholism in the mother and father in this story. (This annotation contains a link)
Think about how Tommie dying and Maggie and Jimmie living is presented in these few short sentences. Why might you think Tommie is the lucky one and Maggie and Jimmie are the unlucky ones? Explain your answer using details from the story.
The picture below would be a typical street in the area of New York where Jimmie is working. Can you relate to any of Jimmie's frustrations with driving a truck after seeing what it might be like? (This annotation contains an image)
Which word would NOT describe Jimmie?
It is possible Maggie worked in a shop much like the one pictured below. What do you think it would be like to work there? Would there be anything pleasant about it? (This annotation contains an image)
What can the reader see about Pete that Maggie can't see?
The term "dago" is an ethnic slur used to describe people of Italian descent. What are you supposed to infer about Pete and his use of this offensive term?
Which of the following is NOT a reason Maggie sees Pete as a knight?
Waltz music has been around since the 1500's but really gained in popularity in the 1700s. Below is a clip from a symphony written by Tchaikovsky in the late 1800s. This might have been music that Crane was familiar with. Does the sound of this music match what you imagined would be playing at the concert hall Pete took Maggie to? (This annotation contains a video)
It is clear from this exchange that Maggie and Pete had different expectations for the evening. Compare and contrast their expectations using details from the text. Who do you think had more realistic expectations? Why?
Below is an article that explains the fashion trends of the late 1800s. You can see what women's dresses looked like. What, if any, influence on current fashion can you see in these fashions from over 100 years ago? (This annotation contains a link)
Which is NOT one way Maggie is changing?
The picture below shows a woman dressed in typical late 1800's attire. How does this image compare and contrast with the image you are going to have of Maggie's mother over the next few pages as well as what you know of her already? (This annotation contains an image)
Jimmie wants to know what is wrong with his mother, why she is stomping about, yelling and screaming. What is wrong with her?
Jimmie is implying that his sister Maggie now has a ruined reputation for leaving with Pete. As a young, attractive, unmarried girl leaving to live with a man to whom she is not married would be considered scandalous and shameful in the time setting for this novel. What would the reaction be if Maggie were doing the same thing today? How would the reactions of people be similar? How would they be different?
Why is Jimmie so angry?
Below is a picture of a modern bar designed to look like one that might come from the late 1800's. How does the image below compare and contrast to the image you create in your mind based on Crane's description? (This annotation contains an image)
Jimmie is clearly looking to have a confrontation with Pete. Based on what you know so far about these characters, make a prediction about what you think is about to transpire between them. Use evidence from the text to support your prediction.
There are numerous similes and metaphors used on this page as well as throughout this book. Watch the video below to review the differences between similes and metaphors then watch for them as you continue to read and think about how they create strong images in your mind. (This annotation contains a video)
This book is filled with constant fighting, people hitting each other. Which does NOT appear to be one of the purposes for the fighting?
It is hard to imagine what a salary of $5 a week would be. The site below gives you an idea of how much $5 earned in 1890 would equate to today. Would the current equivalent be enough to live on? (This annotation contains a link)
Why does Maggie feel so uncomfortable about the other men and boys looking at her?
Jimmie and his mother are alluding to a parable from the Bible, the parable of the prodigal son. Read a summary of it at the site below, looking for similarities and differences between the parable and the situation with Maggie. (This annotation contains a link)
How is Maggie's mother using her daughter "going to the devil" to her advantage? Use specific examples from the story to build your response.
Below is the trailer for the popular teen movie from the 1980's called Pretty in Pink. The storyline revolves around a couple who are from opposite social circles -- a rich boy and a poor girl, not too unlike what you see with Pete and Maggie. The storyline of two people from different worlds falling in love is one that is seen in a great many books, movies, and television shows. Why do you think this type of story is so popular? (This annotation contains a video)
Which is likely NOT a reason Pete wants to talk to Nellie outside?
Why did Maggie return to the home where her mother and Jimmie live rather than where she had been living with Pete when she told Freddie, "I'm going home?"
If you were to map out the plot structure for this story, you could make a case for this moment being the climax. Review what the role of climax is in the plot of a story then determine if this is indeed the climax. If not, when did it happen or when will it happen? (This annotation contains a link)
Why is Maggie so happy to see Pete again?
The highlighted exchange between Maggie and Pete should sound familiar. It is similar to the exchange between Jimmie and Hattie. It is possible to say that reading the conversation between Jimmie and Hattie could be foreshadowing of how things would happen with Maggie and Pete. Read the definition of foreshadowing below and decide if Crane was deliberately trying to prepare the reader for the end of Maggie and Pete by foreshadowing it through Jimmie and Hattie. (This annotation contains a link)
Who is the girl mentioned in this paragraph?
One way to read the highlighted passage would be to read it literally for the events taking place. Another way to read it could be to look for symbols to indicate a deeper meaning beyond what you are reading. Watch the video below to understand what symbolism is then look back at the highlighted passage. What symbols might you see in the colors red and black? Who could the fat man by symbolizing? (This annotation contains a video)
The girl in this chapter is unnamed, except for one instance when a man refers to her as "Mary". Is the girl Maggie or is it someone else? State your opinion and explain it using evidence from the text to elaborate on and support your opinion.
Why is Pete repeatedly telling the girls he is with, including Nell, that he is a "good fellow?"
It is hard to feel any sympathy for Pete. You might say that he got what he deserved. This could be called poetic justice. Read about poetic justice at the site below and then determine if this is indeed what happened to Pete. (This annotation contains a link)
How is it ironic that Maggie's mother forgives her daughter?
The video below explains the difference between static and dynamic characters. Watch the video to gain an understanding of the two types of characters. Then, as you read, pay attention to the character of George and decide if he is a static or dynamic character because a case for both can be made for him. (This annotation contains a video)
What are you supposed to infer from this passage?
The song being sung here is a hymn. At the link below, you can see the full lyrics of the song. Keep these lyrics in mind as you continue to read, thinking about how they relate to the woman singing the song. (This annotation contains a link)
The old woman's cooking and cleaning is compared in an extended metaphor to what?
George's mother sounds as if she might be in favor of temperance. Read more about the temperance movement at the link below. Why do you think there was such a push by women for temperance? (This annotation contains a link)
The way the old woman behaves indicates what feeling for her son?
It was not uncommon for bars and pubs to have sawdust on the floor to help absorb spills to make them easier to clean up. Sawdust was also used sometimes on the floors of butcher shops for the same purpose. However, it sounds kind of messy to use sawdust this way. What might be some other problems associated with putting sawdust on the floor of a bar?
What is being said in the metaphor, "Gee, you fellahs er tanks?"
It is not uncommon today to leave a light on all night, but at the time this novel was set, electricity was rare so oil lamps were commonly used. Read more about the different kinds of lamps used during the 19th century, then see if you can understand why George's mother was chastising him for leaving the lamp burn all night. (This annotation contains a link)
Surely George and his mother love and care about each other. But what else can be inferred about their relationship? Using examples from the text, explain the relationship this mother and son have and why it might cause some stress between them.
Sigmund Freud developed the theory that personality is comprised of three parts -- the id, ego, and superego. Read more about those parts of the personality and then think about how George's personality is developing according to this principle. (This annotation contains a link)
What do George and his mother have in common as they envision George's future?
It sounds like George has a crush on Maggie, according to definition number 4 in the site below. Read the definition to see if George's feelings and actions do fit that definition. (This annotation contains a link)
Why is George being so mean to his mother?
Do you think this is just a party with a bunch of buddies getting together for a good time, or is there something more to this gathering? State your feelings about what this party might be about, remembering to use details from the text to support you ideas.
Did you know what a mouth-organ was before seeing the picture below? This is a harmonica from the late 1800's, probably similar to the one being played by the man in the highlighted text. (This annotation contains an image)
It sounds as if George could have hit his head hard enough to have a concussion. Read more about concussions below, then as you read further on in the story, try to determine if George does indeed have a concussion or if he is just drunk and then suffering from a hangover. (This annotation contains a link)
Why is George upset at the end of this chapter?
An earlier annotation asked you to consider if George had a concussion. Now that you have read further into the story and seen more of George's behavior, you can also consider if he has a hangover. Read more about the symptoms and causes of hangovers at the site below then make a more informed judgement about the possibility of George having a concussion or a hangover. (This annotation contains a link)
Why did George lie to his mother about what happened to him?
Prayer meetings are assemblies where people get together to pray outside of a regular church service. Why do you think people would want to attend a prayer service as well as regular church services?
Which word would NOT describe George's behavior in this paragraph?
The average beer is anywhere from 4% - 6% alcohol. George says he can drink from 10 - 20 beers. The average-sized man would be considered legally drunk after consuming 3 beers in less than 3 hours. Does it sound like George has a problem with alcohol?
Why do you think George's mother is so insistent that he come to prayer meeting with her?
Most people know about the health risks associated with smoking. Less is known about using chewing tobacco, though, because it is not as popular as cigarettes. Read more about the health risks of using chewing tobacco below, then try to come up with reasons why anyone might want to use chewing tobacco, knowing the risks. (This annotation contains a link)
Twice George refers to the respect given to this young gang of troublemakers. This is not "respect" in the way it is understood today. What is Crane saying when he speaks of these guys being respected? Be sure to use details from the text in your explanation.
Read the poem below by Langston Hughes. The decide if this might be the same message George's mother might be trying to share with her son. (This annotation contains a link)
Why is George's mother so pained?
What George's mother offers to do could be considered helicopter parenting. Read about helicopter parenting at the site below then make up your own mind if George's mother is a helicopter parent. (This annotation contains a link)
Fearing the worst for his mother, George appears to have changed his attitude toward her and the way he lives his life. Do you think he has really changed, or is this just a passing feeling? State your opinion, remembering to support it with evidence from the text.
George is going to have to make a decision about whether or not he should go to his mother. The last time, she wasn't nearly as sick as it was presented to him. Is she really sick this time, or is this crying wolf? Read the origins of the phrase "cry wolf" below then make a prediction about what George will do: will he go to his mother or will he think she is crying wolf? (This annotation contains a link)
What role does George's mother seem to be playing in his life at this point in the book?
Apparently George's mother is having hallucinations. Read more about hallucinations below then decide what might be causing her to hallucinate. (This annotation contains a link)
Which saying could fit the events that are happening while George's mother is dying?
Watch the video below about point of view and cultural perspective. Most of Crane's writing has been from a third person point of view. What advantage does that give him? Also, his stories are set in New York. What view of New York is he providing for the reader? (This annotation contains a video)
Apparently a nut has fallen off the wheel which has caused quite a traffic jam. Many people are trying to help fix the broken-down van. Asking for candles seems like a strange request. Using what you know about the setting for this story, what purpose will the candles serve? Use details from the story to explain your theory.
The cars being described are horse-drawn trolleys, similar to what is pictured below. How might the traffic jam in this story be complicated by the fact that the vehicles are powered by horses? (This annotation contains an image)
How does Crane make the reader feel sympathy for the child?
It is possible the toy so coveted by the child in this story looked similar to the one pictured below. Why did the child want this toy so badly that he was willing to steal it right out of the owner's hands? (This annotation contains an image)
What ironic feeling does Crane make the reader feel?
This is likely to be an emotionally impactful story. The dog in the story might look like the one pictured below. Read the story with the image of this dog (or some other dog) in mind. What is the impact of having strong visualization in this story? (This annotation contains an image)
What literary device is Crane using in this story to create an emotional connection between the reader and the dog?
You might wonder why this dog stays with the boy and the family despite being mistreated at times. Watch the video below to gain an understanding of dogs and their loyalty. (This annotation contains a link)
Which could be a theme for this short story?
This sounds as if it is a forerunner of the Great Depression-era soup kitchens. Read a brief history of soup kitchens in the United States at the site below then decide why free, hot meals like the free soup offered in this story were needed by these residents of New York. (This annotation contains a link)
Given the context, which quote from this page seems unusual or odd?
Those who were poor immigrants were often forced to live in or rent rooms in tenement housing. Read about the history of tenements at the site below, trying to imagine what being in that room might be like for the youth in this story. (This annotation contains a link)
Why would the assassin be shocked that someone in that room was wearing a nightshirt?
The racial slur used in the highlighted text may be jarring for you to see as a reader. A few years ago there was a huge controversy surrounding the removal of this slur from the novel Huck Finn which set off a controversy about censorship and offensive language. Read about the controversy below then form your own opinion about the use of this word in historical texts. (This annotation contains a link)
Why do you think this story is called "An Experiment in Misery?" Explain your answer thoroughly using details from the story.
Opium is an illegal drug, but at the time Crane was writing, it was legal in the United States. Read about the history of opium at the site below, paying particular attention to the information dated late 1800's - early 1900's. Are you shocked to see what drug was created from opium and given to cure morphine addicts of their addiction? (This annotation contains a link)
In the case of those who are poor, it is common to have nothing to do. In this case of the wealthy, the youth and his friend are sitting around with nothing to do. What is the difference between the two freedoms here?
This is an allusion to historical figure Napoleon Bonaparte. The video below gives a brief biography of him. What do you think Crane was saying about the kitten by comparing it to Napoleon? (This annotation contains a video)
Obviously this story is a companion to the previous story. Do you think Crane showed that there are more similarities or differences between the two social classes? Explain your position using details from the stories.
Below is a map of New Jersey, which is quite close to New York City. Where in New Jersey might the Binkses have gone if it was a short train ride from New York City? (This annotation contains an image)
Why is everyone staring at the Binkses?
Sailor suits were popular for young boys at the turn of the century, as seen in the picture below. Some parents still put their young sons in sailor suits today. Why do you think this is a popular boy's outfit still? (This annotation contains an image)
Which might NOT be the rest of Mr. Binks's question?
It is not uncommon for people to call any amount of heavy snow a blizzard. However, there are requirements that need to be met in order for a snowstorm to officially be a blizzard. Read about blizzards below, then as you read this story, look for elements that would qualify this storm as a blizzard. (This annotation contains a link)
What does Crane want the reader to feel?
King Edward the VIII assumed the throne in 1901. Prior to that, he was the Prince of Wales referenced in the highlighted text. Read a little about him at the site below, and see his picture. Does this help you envision the description Crane provided? (This annotation contains a link)
Why is there no more complaining about the cold and snow from the men who are outside?
It sounds as if the man may have had a seizure. Read more about seizures at the site below to learn what they are, what their causes are, and what to do if you are with someone when they have a seizure. Based on the information at this site, do you think the man in the story did indeed have a seizure? (This annotation contains a link)
What is Crane trying to illustrate with this story?
If you have never been to court, you might not know how to act. The video below explains how to behave in a courtroom. Is anything mentioned in the video that is also mentioned in the highlighted paragraph? (This annotation contains a video)
What does the hidden smile probably mean?
A chorus girl is a dancer in a stage show. Pictured below is a group of chorus girls from a show in 1900. Why do you think the chorus girl was suspected of soliciting the men who walked by her? (This annotation contains an image)
The reluctant witness is faced with a moral conundrum: should he go to court to speak up on behalf of a girl with a poor reputation who did nothing wrong this time, or should he protect his own reputation and decline to testify, thus allowing the girl to be punished for something she did not do? Which choice should he make, in your opinion? Support your opinion with details from the text.
Despite warnings not to testify, the witness appears as if he is going to testify on behalf of the wrongly accused prostitute anyway. This is reminiscent of the story in the Bible when Jesus is chastised for being kind and forgiving to a sinful woman. Read the story below and see if "The Reluctant Witness" has any similarities to this biblical story. (This annotation contains a link)
Quiz: New York