Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Other Stories Quotes and Analysis

Quotes and Analysis

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"Nevertheless, he had, on a certain star-lit evening, said wonderingly and quite reverently: 'Deh moon looks like hell, don't it?'"

"Maggie," p. 13

Robert Tine writes that this quotation is "the inarticulate limit of Jimmie's appreciation of life beyond the gutter" (Crane 227). This line concludes the chapter that describes Jimmie's growth into a belligerent, good-for-nothing alcoholic in the Manhattan slums. Juxtaposed with lengthy descriptions of Jimmie's ugly behaviors and lack of decency, this statement reveals a wholly distinct (if brief) glimpse of Jimmie. He is able to dimly perceive the beauty that exists beyond the narrow squalor of his own life. However, perhaps due to lack of education and exposure to such beauty, Jimmie is unable to express his admiration coherently.

"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 his whiskers. When anybody died in the pale-green snow storms, the gallery mourned. They sought out the painted misery and hugged it as akin."

"Maggie," pp. 23-24

The loud gallery described here directly reflects the role of the Johnson family's neighbors in the Bowery. In fact, the actions described in this passage correspond precisely to what the neighbors do, particularly with Mary Johnson as their focal heroine. The neighbors, who also live in the slums, are certainly among the "unfortunate" and "oppressed" along with the Johnsons. The "struggling hero," Mary Johnson, receives sympathy at the plight of Maggie and her ruined reputation. When Maggie attempts to return to her mother's house, the neighbors also shun her, similar to jeering at the supposed villain. Of course, in the final chapter, the neighbors join Mary Johnson to mourn Maggie's untimely death.

"The last act was a triumph for the hero, poor and of the masses, the representative of the audience, over the villain and the rich man, his pockets stuffed with bonds, his heart packed with tyrannical purposes, imperturbable and suffering."

"Maggie," p. 24

Though the gallery follows the action as do the Johnson neighbors (and the reader), the above description of the play Maggie attends is deeply ironic. Ultimately, her life in fact does not reflect what is depicted in the play, despite the presence of the gallery. The heroine in "Maggie," though poor and of the masses, does not triumph. Instead, the last act of Crane's story does not even grant Maggie the dignity of explaining her death; she dies in the slums, lost and for a while anonymous.

"None of them knew the color of the sky."

"The Open Boat," p. 57

This is the famous opening line of "The Open Boat." With this simple statement, Crane successfully depicts the survivors' disorientation and their insignificance in nature. Although these four men are at open sea, with nothing sheltering them from the sky, they do not know its color. This demonstrates their preoccupation not only with the serious predicament at hand, but also with their own mortality. In addition, this brief sentence underscores a larger theme in this short story: nature's indifference to man.

"If I am going to be drowned - if I am going to be drowned - if I am going to be drowned, why, in the name of the seven mad gods who rule the sea, was I allowed to come thus far and contemplate sand and trees? Was I brought here merely to have my nose dragged away as I was about to nibble the sacred cheese of life?"

"The Open Boat," p. 64

This material is repeated several times throughout "The Open Boat," particularly from the point of view of the correspondent, as he remains awake through the night to guide the dinghy. The overriding tone of this quote is existentialist. The correspondent seems to question the purpose of man's life if death is its inevitable conclusion. Man's functions and achievements, represented by the ability to "contemplate sand and trees," appear to be meaningless when so easily obliterated by the prospect of death. Instead, man is like a mere mouse pursuing cheese.

"[Nature] did not seem cruel to him then, nor beneficent, nor treacherous, nor wise. But she was indifferent, flatly indifferent. It is, perhaps, plausible that a man in this situation, impressed with the unconcern of the universe, should see the innumerable flaws of his life, and have them taste wickedly in his mind, and wish for another chance."

"The Open Boat," p. 74

Nature, as usual, is personified as a female being with human qualities. Crane clearly addresses the issue of man's insignificance in this quotation. The universe at large is "flatly indifferent" to the fate of the shipwreck survivors, as one might expect in an existential context. It is suggested that this very indifference causes a person--the correspondent in particular--to re-examine his life and make meaning and morals for himself. The correspondent thus questions the worth of his past experiences given that the universe is indifferent to whether he lives or dies, thinking that he would have acted differently if he had truly believed that this was the case.

"[H]e felt he was heinous. He had committed an extraordinary crime. Face to face with this girl in San Antonio, and spurred by his sharp impulse, he had gone headlong over all the social hedges."

"The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky," p. 81

This quotation appears in the opening section of "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky." The "social hedges" mentioned here relate to the widely understood tropes of the mythic West, in which the male, gun-toting hero is removed from domesticity. The sheriff's "crime" is breaking this trope simply by getting married in San Antonio--and it is worse that he has not told anyone back in town. The outlandish description of this so-called crime emphasizes Crane's parody of this limited and inaccurate perception of the American West. The sheriff's adherence to the myth is exaggerated and thus comical. It turns out that the most aggressive person around, Scratchy, easily accepts the marriage.

"There was a silence. Potter's mouth seemed to be merely a grave for his tongue. He exhibited an instinct to at once loosen his arm from the woman's grip, and he dropped the bag to the sand. As for the bride, her face had gone as yellow as old cloth. She was a slave to hideous rites, gazing at the apparitional snake."

"The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky," p. 87

This exaggerated description heightens the comedic portrayal of these characters. The strong and silent "cowboy," Potter, is rendered silent--ineffectually speechless--at the sight of Scratchy Wilson. The bride, who should ordinarily be described as beautiful, here is unattractive. Furthermore, she is bound to "hideous rites"--specifically, the classic gunfight or midday showdown, as seen in many typical Western dime novels or movies--and Scratchy is the snake. Fortunately, once the two men start communicating, the problem is resolved.

"The corpse of the Swede, alone in the saloon, had its eyes fixed upon a dreadful legend that dwelt atop of the cash-machine: 'This registers the amount of your purchase.'"

"The Blue Hotel," p. 112

This is the final image of the Swede, the pivotal character from "The Blue Hotel." Crane's detail regarding the cash register is ironic. Throughout the entire story, the Swede has egged on the other men with his expectation of violence. However, his companions do not in fact wish him harm, as he accuses. Nonetheless, his paranoia and aggressiveness eventually lead to his death. In a sense, the Swede has "purchased" his deathly fate, as he originally predicted upon his arrival in Fort Romper. The cash register itself is a mark of rational civilization, quite the opposite of the myth of the untamed Wild West where might makes right.

"This poor gambler isn't even a noun. He is kind of an adverb. Every sin is the result of a collaboration. We, five of us, have collaborated in the murder of this Swede ... you, I, Johnnie, old Scully; and that fool of an unfortunate gambler came merely as a culmination, the apex of a human movement, and gets all the punishment.'"

"The Blue Hotel," p. 113

This passage is spoken by the keenly observant Easterner in "The Blue Hotel" in the story's coda. He reveals to the cowboy that the Swede was correct in his accusation that Johnnie was cheating at the card game. More importantly, the Easterner argues for everyone's complicity in the Swede's death. For his part, the Easterner failed to support the Swede's claim against Johnnie, although he knew it to be true. The rest of the men did not take action to alleviate the Swede's paranoia and fear, however initially unjustifiable. Though the gambler physically murders the Swede, all of the men are responsible for his death. In effect, their actions drive him to the bar where the gambler is, leaving him in an antagonistic and boastful mood, having beaten Johnnie. The Easterner is thus taking a collective, almost socialistic, environmental view of the circumstances, as though everyone is responsible for keeping the strange emotions of the newcomer under control.