Study Guide

Minor Characters in Maggie: A Girl of the Streets

By Stephen Crane

Minor Characters

Nellie

She may be a woman of "brilliance and audacity" (18.19) who steals her old flame, Pete, away from Maggie, but Nellie's no exception to the sad economic and social realities of the novel. She's a prostitute, too, just a fancier one and more sophisticated. Her biggest advantage, however, is her disdain:

Maggie took instant note of the woman. She perceived that her black dress fitted her to perfection. Her linen collar and cuffs were spotless. Tan gloves were stretched over her well-shaped hands. A hat of a prevailing fashion perched jauntily upon her dark hair. She wore no jewelry and was painted with no apparent paint. She looked clear-eyed through the stares of the men. (14.10)

Unsurprisingly, unlike Maggie, Nellie doesn't follow Pete around like a puppy dog—it's actually the reverse. And this is important: She makes it clear that Pete isn't the hotshot he thinks he is. At the end of the novel, she basically steps over his inebriated body and walks away—but not before stealing his money and cursing him as a "fool" (18.56). Classy.

Father Johnson

Dad's a hot mess in big black boots and a pipe stuck in his mouth. He lives in mortal fear of his hell-raising wife, but then turns around and gives the beatdown to his own kids. Perhaps his best quality is the advice he gives to his children, gems like don't beat your sister in the street where the neighbors can see you, fool. (That's a paraphrase, but you follow.) You can find him cursing his wife to hell, stealing beer from neighbors, or in the form of a "limp body" passed out in a chair. He dies early on, which is both a blessing and a curse.

The Old Woman/Neighbor

This neighborly hag is one of the few people in the story to display a shred of human decency. She is "a gnarled and leathery personage who could don, at will, an expression of great virtue" (3.2). She takes young Jimmie in after Mom and Dad have a drunken row. A beggar and a thief, she sits with her music box on the sidewalk on Fifth Avenue begging for pennies.

Tommie

This kid never stands a chance. The youngest child of the Johnson family, Tommie is just a baby and a victim of circumstance like all of the other kids in the family. Though too young to throw down, Tommie's hands are already poised in a permanent fist. He's gone by Chapter 3, though: "He went away in a white, insignificant coffin, his small waxen hand clutching a flower that the girl, Maggie, had stolen from an Italian" (3.1). Tommie, we hardly knew ye.

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