A Girl of the Streets, by Stephen Crane illustrates the struggle of immigrants trying to “make it” in a lower Manhattan neighborhood. The disassembled family is made up of the father, Mary, Jimmie, Maggie, and Tommie. Maggie struggles with attempting to improve her life an attempt to leave her family and be sufficient on her own. Maggie did have choices in what she was going to do after leaving her family, but those choices were all “do this or you might die. ” If Maggie had not made those choices, she would have died because they were necessary to survive.
Although Maggie had a choice, there was no real choice other than the choice to want to live. Maggie’s first choice was the choice to work in the shirt factory. This was a necessity because her mother was a raging alcoholic and her brother was an enraged failure. Maggie had to work if she wanted to get out of the house, lead a better life, and survive. The Bowery is described as: “The loud gallery was overwhelmingly with the unfortunate and the oppressed. They encouraged the struggling hero with cries, and jeered the villain, hooting and calling attention to her whiskers. When anybody died in the pale-green snowstorms, the gallery mourned.
They sought out the painted misery and hugged it as akin. ”(Pg. 23). Maggie lives in a very depressed and impoverished neighborhood, with oppressed and judgmental neighbors who only mourn losses, not unfortunate circumstance. Many immigrants coming to the U. S. during the industrial revolution settled for sup-par jobs and living conditions because some food on the table was better than starvation. Maggie’s next choice is choosing to live with Pete. When her drunken mother comes home to Pete trying to take Maggie out, she goes into a rampage, saying “Yer a disgrace teh yer people, damn you. (Pg. 57). Maggie was pushed by her mother to leave. She didn’t make a choice; an alcoholic mother drove her out. Maggie had nowhere to run and ran to Pete, leaving both her home and her innocence. Mary’s road to seduction also causes a further tear in her family relations. Both Mary and the Bowery chastise Maggie for her choices, which disgraces her enough never to be able to live at home again. Maggie can never move back home due to disgrace, so she must find an alternative after Pete met an old acquaintance. Her destination is prostitution on the streets of New York.
Maggie’s last choice is becoming a prostitute. Once again, this is not a real choice because Maggie had nowhere to go. She maybe could have tried to find an alternative, but life was too hard just to crash somewhere else. Maggie faced the harsh reality of having to sell your body to live. Her family and neighborhood had already denounced her, so her becoming a prostitute affirms everything they accused her of being. Maggie’s life of prostitution leads to a scene where we see a man following her and then hearing about her death a few pages later.
Maggie’s unfortunate choice in an attempt to live a better life than her mother and brother failed and resulted in her death. Stephen Crane was a naturalist, which shows that he believed and represented through the text that there really are no choices to life and that it is natural and deterministic. Crane shoots down the idea of going through life making a series of choices that will ultimately decide where you end up. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets affirms Crane’s belief to the fullest, with Maggie being born into an unfortunate situation and dying in that situation.
She was never able to concretely choose between A and B, but rather heavily pushed towards one choice when faced with it. Maggie’s factory job, disownment from her family because of Pete, and ultimate death after taking to the world of prostitution were all choices that she made on her own. The problem was that she was either faced with the choice or starvation and living on the streets, making them not real choices. When faced with the issue, most people would choose life instead of death and would be faced with the same forced choices that Maggie had.