Study Guide

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets Awe and Amazement

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Awe and Amazement

Jimmie's occupation for a long time was to stand on street corners and watch the world go by, dreaming blood-red dreams at the passing of pretty women. (4.8)

Jimmie drifts between feeling like he's part of the world and feeling separate from it; his anger at everyone helps protect him from caring. Before he became a truck driver, he amused himself with some sort of disturbing visions of female passers-by.

He maintained a belligerent attitude toward all well-dressed men. To him fine raiment was allied to weakness, and all good coats covered faint hearts. He and his order were kings, to a certain extent, over the men of untarnished clothes, because these latter dreaded, perhaps, to be either killed or laughed at. (4.10)

Easier to hate people than envy them, right? Rather than being impressed by wealth, Jimmie sees himself as above such concerns. He knows well-dressed men fear him—and that's what matters.

When he had a dollar in his pocket his satisfaction with existence was the greatest thing in the world. So, eventually, he felt obliged to work. (4.12)

Of course, Jimmie is a bit of a hypocrite. He hates people who show their wealth, but he sees the world differently when he has cash himself. Time to get a job.

After a time his sneer grew so that it turned its glare upon all things. He became so sharp that he believed in nothing. (4.18)

Haters gonna hate. Jimmie's resentment of the world is downright nihilistic, though: Nothing matters to this guy.

He fell into the habit, when starting on a long journey, of fixing his eye on a high and distant object, commanding his horses to begin, and then going into a sort of a trance of observation. (4.20)

Jimmie moves through the Bowery streets with some serious road rage. In a state of reverie, he plows through the world expecting everyone to just get the heck out of his way.

Foot-passengers were mere pestering flies with an insane disregard for their legs and his convenience. He could not conceive their maniacal desires to cross the streets. Their madness smote him with eternal amazement. (4.22)

Those pesky pedestrians… In Jimmie's eyes, people walking down the street are mere bugs with the express intention of getting on his nerves. He's just constantly stunned by their stupidity.

A fire engine was enshrined in his heart as an appalling thing that he loved with a distant dog-like devotion. They had been known to overturn street-cars. Those leaping horses, striking sparks from the cobbles in their forward lunge, were creatures to be ineffably admired. The clang of the gong pierced his breast like a noise of remembered war. (4.26)

Much like a five-year-old, Jimmie just loves himself some fire engines. They are pretty much the only things he respects, and he relishes the feeling of being in the midst of battle as fire engines speed by.

Maggie observed Pete. (5.8)

This moment may not exactly seem like awe and amazement, but if you know Maggie, you know it's her version of it. Like most of the novel's other characters, she's not moved by much—but once she lays eyes on Pete, she's doomed.

He had certainly seen everything and with each curl of his lip, he declared that it amounted to nothing. Maggie thought he must be a very elegant and graceful bartender. (5.11)

Guess there's nothing as hot as a guy who hates everything. There is nothing Pete isn't above. But while this kind of screams insecurity to us, Maggie is seriously impressed.

Maggie perceived that here was the beau ideal of a man. Her dim thoughts were often searching for far away lands where, as God says, the little hills sing together in the morning. Under the trees of her dream-gardens there had always walked a lover. (5.25)

Maggie gets a lot of her ideas from fairytales and the sort of happily-ever-after stuff in music halls. She doesn't so much fall in love with Pete as she falls in love with whatever image she has projected onto him.

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