Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane

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This is perhaps my favorite story written by the short-lived but legendary author so far. It even surpasses his most well-known novel The Red Badge of Courage. Maybe because despite my great interest in the Civil War, the main character in this story touches me the most: Maggie Johnson.

Unlike her common name, Maggie is not a common girl. Just by reading the description of her family, it was pretty easy enough to tell that she detested her family. Her mother, father, and brother Jimmy all had their own life going on. They blame the obstacles in life on her. Mary Johnson, her mother drinks and fights and curses after their father passed away. Jimmy seemed unwilling to acknowledge his family as he thought it as a burden and a disgrace to his life. And Maggie was no different. Since from a young age, her violent reactions including how she trembles and hides under the table show her extreme fear for the people she’s supposed to love the most-her parents. Everything changed when Pete came.

Because of her childhood trauma, Maggie craved more than ever to find a man who is well educated and rich, mainly to save her from her diabolical family. Pete was Jimmy’s friend, I could tell he was being like a casual friend to Maggie by taking her to see plays and eat at luxurious restaurants since he owned a saloon. However, Pete was not a person who holds a serious attitude toward love or relationship, he was simply a player. And this is when Maggie gets really hurt by his rudeness later on when they met Nell, Pete’s old sweetheart. From this point on, Maggie’s imagined glorious life starts to deteriorate.

Moreover, Mary Johnson couldn’t forgive Maggie’s not coming home every night since Pete came along. In my opinion, Mary is very absurd for her requirement for Maggie as a pious daughter when she doesn’t even qualify a single bit to be a mother. Her daughter is an adult, so it’s her right to stay wherever she wants if she doesn’t feel like going home today. Besides, the wrecked condition of the house and her manner toward Maggie, of course, disengages her desire to return home after a grueling day at the clothing factory she works at.

Lastly, this story mainly just reflects how the death of our protagonist at the end proves parental failure to be a severe issue a lot of the children face even in our present society.

-Coreen C. 

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Favorite Fictional Parents

I thought it would be fun to compile a list of some of my favorite fictional parents, as some of them play such a big role in raising their children to be the heroes we love to read about.

Martin Penderwick (The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall): One thing I love about Mr. Penderwick, who is a botanist, is that he always seems to have a phrase of Latin to toss to his daughters, most of the time leaving them to puzzle it out. It is not easy to raise four daughters on your own, and by looking at his daughters, you can see he did quite a nice job.

Arthur Weasley (Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling): Always intrigued by the various creations of Muggles, Arthur Weasley is not your typical wizard. He seems a supportive dad, with his son Ron looking to him for answers to questions, and though he can get a bit carried away with tinkering with Muggle objects and his fascination with “escapators”, his wife Molly tends to keep him in check.

Molly Weasley (Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling): Loving and warm–though sharp at times– Mrs. Weasley treats Harry as one of her own children despite her already large family of seven kids. The wondrous food produced in her kitchen is one of Harry’s most favorite parts of staying at the Burrow. Though she is motherly and kind, it’s also best not to get on the wrong side of her wand; even her sons shrink from her anger although they are taller than she.

Sally Jackson (Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan): Sally Jackson shows true strength by raising a child on her own (a demigod, at that). Her love for her son, Percy, is evident in her willingness to live with a putrid-smelling man in order for the stench to cover up Percy’s demigod smell from creatures of Greek myths. Sally’s affection for her son is amazing, just like her seven-layer dip.

– Mia T.