Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, Stephen Crane
Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
Stephen Crane
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Maggie: A Girl of the Streets is an 1893 novella by American author Stephen Crane. The story centers on Maggie, a young girl from the Bowery who is driven to unfortunate circumstances by poverty and solitude. The work was considered risqué by publishers because of its literary realism and strong themes. The story opens with Jimmie, at this point a young boy, trying by himself to fight a gang of boys from an opposing neighborhood. He is saved by his friend, Pete, and comes home to his sister, Maggie, his toddling brother, Tommie, his brutal and drunken father, and mother, Mary Johnson. The parents, Irish immigrants, terrify the children until they are shuddering in the corner. Years pass, Tommie and his father die as Jimmie hardens into a sneering, aggressive, cynical youth. He gets a job as a teamster, having no regard for anyone but firetrucks who would run him down. Maggie begins to work in a shirt factory, but her attempts to improve her life are undermined by her mother's drunken rages.

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets

Stephen Crane

Chapter I

A very little boy stood upon a heap of gravel for the honor of RumAlley. He was throwing stones at howling urchins from Devil’s Row whowere circling madly about the heap and pelting at him.

His infantile countenance was livid with fury. His small body waswrithing in the delivery of great, crimson oaths.

“Run, Jimmie, run! Dey’ll get yehs,” screamed a retreating Rum Alleychild.

“Naw,” responded Jimmie with a valiant roar, “dese micks can’t make merun.”

Howls of renewed wrath went up from Devil’s Row throats. Tatteredgamins on the right made a furious assault on the gravel heap. Ontheir small, convulsed faces there shone the grins of true assassins.As they charged, they threw stones and cursed in shrill chorus.

The little champion of Rum Alley stumbled precipitately down the otherside. His coat had been torn to shreds in a scuffle, and his hat wasgone. He had bruises on twenty parts of his body, and blood wasdripping from a cut in his head. His wan features wore a look of atiny, insane demon.

On the ground, children from Devil’s Row closed in on their antagonist.He crooked his left arm defensively about his head and fought withcursing fury. The little boys ran to and fro, dodging, hurling stonesand swearing in barbaric trebles.

From a window of an apartment house that upreared its form from amidsquat, ignorant stables, there leaned a curious woman. Some laborers,unloading a scow at a dock at the river, paused for a moment andregarded the fight. The engineer of a passive tugboat hung lazily to arailing and watched. Over on the Island, a worm of yellow convictscame from the shadow of a building and crawled slowly along the river’sbank.

A stone had smashed into Jimmie’s mouth. Blood was bubbling over hischin and down upon his ragged shirt. Tears made furrows on hisdirt-stained cheeks. His thin legs had begun to tremble and turn weak,causing his small body to reel. His roaring curses of the first partof the fight had changed to a blasphemous chatter.

In the yells of the whirling mob of Devil’s Row children there werenotes of joy like songs of triumphant savagery. The little boys seemedto leer gloatingly at the blood upon the other child’s face.

Down the avenue came boastfully sauntering a lad of sixteen years,although the chronic sneer of an ideal manhood already sat upon hislips. His hat was tipped with an air of challenge over his eye.Between his teeth, a cigar stump was tilted at the angle of defiance.He walked with a certain swing of the shoulders which appalled thetimid. He glanced over into the vacant lot in which the little ravingboys from Devil’s Row seethed about the shrieking and tearful childfrom Rum Alley.

“Gee!” he murmured with interest. “A scrap. Gee!”

He strode over to the cursing circle, swinging his shoulders in amanner which denoted that he held victory in his fists. He approachedat the back of one of the most deeply engaged of the Devil’s Rowchildren.

“Ah, what deh hell,” he said, and smote the deeply-engaged one on theback of the head. The little boy fell to the ground and gave a hoarse,tremendous howl. He scrambled to his feet, and perceiving, evidently,the size of his assailant, ran quickly off, shouting alarms. Theentire Devil’s Row party followed him. They came to a stand a shortdistance away and yelled taunting oaths at the boy with the chronicsneer. The latter, momentarily, paid no attention to them.

“What deh hell, Jimmie?” he asked of the small champion.

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