“ Maggie, a Girl of the Street” is a story revealing the cruel environment of the low-class people in New York, written by Stephen Crane. Maggie was a girl born in a poor family; in this family, she did not receive any care and love from her parents. She first worked in the shirt factory; after she met Pete, a friend of her brother Jimmie, she quitted her job and lived with Pete. However, Pete left and discarded her, Maggie degenerated into a prostitute. In the end of the story, Maggie could not tolerate her life and chose to suicide.
It is undoubted that the life of Maggie is a tragedy, the main reason leading to the tragedy of Maggie is because the conflict between the cruel environment and the unrealistic fantasy of Maggie. Even though Maggie lived in a dirty environment and cruel society, she still dream to have true love and wealthy life. One of the important reason why Maggie lived in despair was that she wallowed in Pete’s illusory love. Pete was a receptionist of a bar, he was a dawdler and trouble maker.
However, in Maggie’s opinion, Pete was a gracious man, his “ elegant occupation brought him, no doubt, into contact with people who had money and manners” (Crane, chapter 6). Pete let Maggie immerse in his fake manners, dignity and money; also, Pete brought Maggie to the bars, which made Maggie better rely on him and could not live without him. Because Maggie’s living environment is hard, she longed for a way to live better; once Pete appeared, he aroused Maggie’s dream, “ under the trees of her dream-gardens there had always walked a lover” (Crane, chapter 5).
Maggie hoped and determined that Pete was her true love who could liberate her from her poor life and family; therefore, Maggie quitted her job and lived relying on Pete. In contrast, Pete lived and dated with Maggie because Maggie was a beautiful girl, he just needed Maggie to show his status when he went outside. Consequently, when Pete got tired of Maggie and left, Maggie lost almost everything, her job, her dignity, and her purity. The second reason of Maggie’s tragedy was the vanity of her.
Living in a poor, dirty and messy family, Maggie would addicted to the material enjoyment and wealthy life easily once she approached the city life. Bar was the entertainment place like theater, “ clouds of tobacco smoke rolled and wavered high in air about the dull gilt of the chandeliers” (Crane, chapter 7), it was also the symbol of the material life in city. When Pete leaded Maggie to the bar, this place helped Maggie release from her miserable working environment. Because of this “ relaxing” place, the distance between reality and fantasy was shortened in Maggie’s mind.
In the shining and extravagant city, Maggie lost herself and was afraid to return to her poor house. She began to have vanity and was eager to improve her material enjoyment, because she did not want to be ignored and despised by others. Maggie “ began to note, with more interest, the well-dressed women she met on the avenues. She envied elegance and soft palms” (Crane, chapter 8). Maggie wanted to live a fancy city life like the upper-class or middle-class women, while she was just a poor girl from Slumdog.
Lastly, the conflict and distance between Maggie’s fantasy and the real society destroyed her mind and resulted in her death. The conflict between fantasy and reality is always difficult to coordinate, crueler the reality is, happier the fantasy is. Maggie has struggled and been confused between the fantasy and reality; after she went through the poor life and could no longer tolerate it, Maggie pinned all her hopes on the love and beatific life Pete brought to her.
However, after Pete enjoyed her beauty and got tired of her, he did not rescue Maggie from her miserable life; Maggie had to become a prostitute submitting to the cruel reality. Therefore, the fantasy was broken when facing the reality, the gap between the fantasy and reality was so big that could destroy Maggie’s mind easily, and pushed Maggie to death finally. In this story, it seems that author describes Maggie’s miserable life and shows his sympathy to Maggie apparently. However, this story actually shows the vilified female image.
Maggie relied on Pete all the time, she did not realize to be independent and fight for herself. Even after Pete left her, Maggie still tried to beg Pete and hoped to live with him again; Maggie could not live without Pete. In the Patriarchal society, woman like Maggie was meant to the victim submitting to man, because they could not live independently. Overall, “ Maggie, a Girl of the Street” shows a miserable woman destroyed by the gap between fantasy and reality; it described peoples’ psychological activities and the extravagant but dirty lives accurately.