The novella is a glum representation of gloom, poverty, and deplorableness of the families living in the ghetto. It opens with Jimmie receiving a beating from boys, and the crowds just staring and applauding instead of separating the fighting boys (Crane). When Pete comes to rescue Jimmie, the boys starts another fight instantly, and this time round, they are separated by Jimmie’s father, who kicks into the bundle of two boys rolling on the ground in a fight (Crane). The streets were not a pleasurable place to stroll in the evening because of the violence and drunken men and women cursing and hurling insults. The children are engraved into the system, and they know better to keep it on the rough side for a smooth survival. As expected, there were always recipients of scathing, especially when some boy was on the receiving side.
At home, Mary, Jimmie’s mom, was a crazy one. She was known for her antics and fights with her husband (Crane). When Jimmie’s father arrives, and he tries to get Mary to stop massaging Jimmie’s bruises in a punitive way, he gets a scolding, making him to step out for more whisky from the bar, where he is found whining about how his house is hell, saying that was the reason that he was never home, why he is always drinking whisky (Crane). The scene creates an idea of a cross-sectional struggle in the tenement, where both the men and women were not treated differently by the system. Alcohol was sold like food, seeing in the way the old lady at the corner sent Jimmie for some, though he came to his father who took the tin and gulped the beer (Crane).
Mary was also into alcohol, and it was the reason she was always chaotic. The first time we meet her, she is asked by her husband the reason she was always drunk, to which she denies saying that she had not taken a drop of alcohol (Crane). However, from the way her mood swings from violence to sadness, and the way she jerks on Maggie when she breaks a plate, it is evident she was living in a constant oscillation from a bad mood to another bad mood, never settling for a good moment (Crane). The burden of raising children in poor conditions with limited supplies and hardships can be faulted for the behavior of Mary, Jimmie’s mom. She had surrendered to drinking because it made her life easy or just forgetful. The situation is similar to modern deprived communities where people live in constant wants, so much so that they just sink into drinking liquor to forget about their problems (Crane).
The death of Tommie should be a low moment for any family. Tommie was the last born kid in the household, and he appears at the start of the story as part of the victims of Mary’s scolds and cursing (Crane). That shows how death carries little weight in poor communities, especially given the way Maggie described the disappearance of Tommie as “having gone in a white, insignificant coffin” (Crane). In places where human life is revered and valued, death comes as a blow to the people and mourning takes days. In some situations, the families never get to recover from the death of their loved ones. But this was the residence where people lived in pitiable conditions, and the death of Tommie could be viewed as a relief to Mary since she had one less mouth to feed. The fact that it gets to that level raises fears on the ability of people from poor societies to know happiness and grief, going by the fact that they live their whole lives swinging from one difficult to another, washing away their sense of humanness (Crane).
Tommie’s death adds the complexity of life in the tenement. When Jimmie is walking home with his dad after he was found fighting in the streets, we see the description of the housing facilities, the dark corridors, and staircases that one had to scrap lest they fall (Crane). There were always infants and women smoking pipe, while others sat on their verandahs gossiping and drinking liquor (Crane). The writer creates the impression that there was overpopulation, and the women gave birth to too many kids that they could not support them to live well. That builds a connection between the idea of death as an event that did not stress the families and the aspect of giving birth as a thoughtless activity that was done for the sake of it. It also plays into current policies that aim to regulate parenting to ensure that couples do not get too many children. It seems that poverty makes great friends with fertility rates, thus leading to increased poverty (Caputo 4).[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
Jimmie grows to become a man, at least to the standards of the tenement. She drives a fire truck, and the qualities seen in the way she fought with the boys in the streets are reflected in the way he thought about people (Crane). He lived like a man who did not have respect for philosophy and religion and considered individuals who wore suits and good clothes as cowards who were afraid of being mocked (Crane). Jimmie’s thoughts elicit a sense of carelessness that develops as a result of life in the ghetto. He has worn torn clothes and rags for all his life, and he had been laughed at and mocked, but he developed some adaptation that made it impossible for him to whine about his poverty. It shows that poverty and privation harden individuals to make them oblivious to the kind of struggles they were going through. It gives a false sense of invincibility, the way it made Jimmie strong and powerful, even more, powerful than the policemen and the people who wore suits.
The police come into the novella in the form of a sinister force that messed up the balance of peace and normal living in the slums (Crane). Jimmie hates the police, and he thinks of police officers as the only people who did not have any rights. When the senior woman was arrested after she picked a purse that drops off from a neighbor, she kicked a huge policeman with her bowed legs that he almost fell. She screamed, “Damn the police” (Crane). When the scene is reflected in the modern society, it reconciles with the scenes that get reported from the inner cities where people live in poor conditions. The police is a constant disruption to the people, and there is little ‘love’ between the residents and members of the police force in places like Philadelphia inner city. Just the way Jimmy lived with his team, it is the same scenario in modern slum habitations. The level of violence and fights between citizens and police is highly pronounced in places where people with low incomes live (Anderson 50).
When Jimmie’s dad died, his mother sank into alcoholism, as described by Maggie. She would drink in the morning and break furniture and utensils, continually making the house uninhabitable (Crane). Jimmy replaced his dad and became the man of the house rather easily. His bad boy behaviors are seen in the way he tells Maggie to look for a job telling her to either “go to hell or look for a job” (Crane). The writer paints a grim picture of the choices and the seriousness with which Jimmie delivered the instructions. It shows that Jimmie might have been struggling to provide for her sister and alcoholic mother, and it was easy for him to get Maggie looking for a job than face his mother. Poverty leads people to make choices that would not have been part of the bargain if the economic situation had been better. Maggie and Jimmie join the working class at a very young age basically because they did not have a choice; it was just ‘survival of the fittest.’
In Chapter seven, the book turns to focus on the issue of love and relationships, as well as the expectations that men placed on women. Maggie had been impressed by Pete when he came by to have a chat with Jimmie, so when he asks her out, she is excited by the prospect. She gets lost in fantasies, by imagining how Pete lived, the kind of people he used to meet and the possibility that she was not the only girl on his radar (Crane). Pete was confident and sure of himself. He was known at the hall, and all the time he gave attention to Maggie more than he did care about the performance (Crane). Even Maggie noted that Pete had collected all his manners for use on that particular day. The scene shows the way romantic love comes as excitement for all people, for all sections of the society. Poverty limits many facets of lives for residents in the ghetto, but it does not take away the ability to love. Despite the difficulties faced by Maggie and her poor background, she still had enough beauty to strike Pete, a better-privileged gentleman who sold liquor in a club that can be considered uptown, to the tenement standards.[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
When Maggie is taken out by Pete, the readers get a glimpse of the ways of living in the society that was outside the ghetto. Men took their women and children to the show, and the entertainment was enjoyed by people from different walks of life (Crane). It also indicates that many people focused on the show, given the way they applauded the various sets of performers (Crane). However, the show was also a good chance for a young man to entertain his girlfriend, regardless of the objectives of the entertainment. Pete did not give much attention to the performers, and when he escorted Maggie back home, and Maggie refuses to give him a kiss, he is seen lamenting that Maggie could have played him (Crane). It shows that Pete had some specific expectations of Maggie and he was somewhat disappointed that he did not hit his target. It could also mean that Maggie was a much-disciplined girl.
Hell breaks loose when Pete knocks at Maggie’s home and suggests that they go out, and Mary breaks into cursing and scolding (Crane). Mary was very disappointed that Maggie chose to fall in love with Pete, and she was sincerely distressed by the turn of events. Just like the way other problems were treated in the downtown, instead of calling Maggie for a conversation about the issue, she gave her a tongue lashing. The events reflect the old question of love and choices, and the outcome when someone falls in love with a choice that is not accepted by their family. Maggie was disowned by her mother completely for the mere fact that she fell in love with Pete (Crane).[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Generally, the story takes the reader on a journey to the tenement without any attempt to create heroes or extraordinary characters. Everyone in the book has baggage, more like a problem they are struggling with as a result of their situation. When Maggie gets a boyfriend who looked gentlemanly and strong enough, her mother and brother were very disappointed. Mary, Maggie’s mom, called her relationship with Pete as “going with the devil” (Crane). Perhaps this meant that the poor people considered anybody who did not share in their deprivation as an outsider, as a player who sided with the rich to exploit and impoverish the poor. The story is broken down in a very concise manner that makes it real and touching at a level that grabs the attention of the reader and pushed them to do something about poverty and impoverishment. It is also interesting that the poor people retained some sanity, despite the alcohol and the constant struggles with some basic needs like food and clothing. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
The discussion conclusively portrays “Maggie: A Girl of the Streets” as a depiction of the society’s ghetto life. The story is relatable to today’s society – the struggles of the poverty-stricken. With their life challenges, one would think that fatalities like death would have some mercy on them. Instead, death seems to love the poor, as it sweeps the deprived at a much higher rate that the wealthy individuals. From the story, it is evident that despite their hardships, these residents are much more like the “normal” human beings. They crave for love, romance, and affection, and any instance that presents such an opportunity is easily grabbed. It is also apparent that the poor in the ghetto seem to have formed an impenetrable ‘lining’ where they can hardly absorb or integrate with other social classes. They easily consider the affluent as a ‘disease’ much more like the individuals responsible for their plight. As such, the ghetto people harbor deep feelings f hatred and resent towards the other members of the society.
Anderson, Elijah. Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City. Norton, 1999.
Caputo, Richard K. “Head Start, Poor Children, and Their Families.” Journal of Poverty, vol. 2, no. 2, 1998, pp. 1-22.
Crane, Stephen. Maggie, a Girl of the Streets: (A Story of New York). Norton, 1980.