Life for Maggie, Jimmie, and just about everyone else in the novel is rough. Poverty, violence, alcoholism, death—you name it, it's a daily certainty for the peeps of Rum Alley. Jimmie has it tough, but Maggie has it tougher because she's a girl. Then handsome Pete comes along—swoon—and suddenly there's hope for a brighter future.
Can it be? Can the dreamy, sophisticated, cultured Pete really take a liking to Maggie? While we might be skeptical of just how gentlemanly Pete is, Maggie can't get enough of the guy. He asks her out to a show, and it's all she needs to step into a fantasy of their future life together.
Maggie might think Pete's neat, but not everyone is happy for the couple. See, there's this whole unwritten rule that unmarried young ladies don't take off with guys for a three-week stretch—so Momma Mary and Jimmie start talking some serious smack, and Maggie basically gets banned from the apartment. Ugh. Thanks for nothing, guys.
You know that dreamy future Maggie envisions for herself courtesy of Pete? Well, turns out he's actually a cad. All of Maggie's hopes and dreams are squashed like a bug when Pete's old flame comes back into the picture. Poor Maggie never stood a chance, it seems, and Pete unceremoniously ditches her at a bar. Hasta la vista.
Destruction or Death Wish Stage
Maggie now becomes "a girl of the streets," which is an old-fashioned way for saying prostitute. We see a woman who appears to be Maggie (Crane messes with us a little), and there's nothing pretty about her situation. So when we next see Maggie making her way down to the river, well, we know her life is too grim to go on. And indeed, though we don't know how, Maggie dies.