Study Guide

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets Men and Masculinity

By Stephen Crane

Men and Masculinity

Down the avenue came boastfully sauntering a lad of sixteen years, although the chronic sneer of an ideal manhood already sat upon his lips. His hat was tipped with an air of challenge over his eye. Between his teeth, a cigar stump was tilted at the angle of defiance. He walked with a certain swing of the shoulders which appalled the timid. (1.11)

Here's Pete, Shmoopers. This first image is an indelible one, and as the description makes clear, he is one hundred and ten percent man, even at the age of sixteen.

The boy followed a dozen feet in the rear. He swore luridly, for he felt that it was degradation for one who aimed to be some vague soldier, or a man of blood with a sort of sublime license, to be taken home by a father. (1.37)

When Mr. Johnson interrupts the Rum Alley versus Devil's Row scrap, it's a big humiliation for Jimmie. How uncool is it to have Dad come pick you up? It's like your parents going with you on a date.

The wife put her immense hands on her hips and with a chieftain-like stride approached her husband. (2.21)

Mrs. Johnson is a force to be reckoned with. In fact, she is the exception to the rule that only men can be powerful in this book.

In the quarrel between husband and wife, the woman was victor. The man grabbed his hat and rushed from the room, apparently determined upon a vengeful drunk. She followed to the door and thundered at him as he made his way down stairs. (2.38)

Mr. Johnson doesn't stand a chance against his bull of a wife, and he'd rather get out of town than hang out and be a victim of her wrath.

One day the young man, Pete, who as a lad had smitten the Devil's Row urchin in the back of the head and put to flight the antagonists of his friend, Jimmie, strutted upon the scene. (5.8)

Pete mesmerizes everyone—ladies swoon, and dudes get out of his way in admiration.

He sat on a table in the Johnson home and dangled his checked legs with an enticing nonchalance. His hair was curled down over his forehead in an oiled bang. His rather pugged nose seemed to revolt from contact with a bristling moustache of short, wire-like hairs. His blue double-breasted coat, edged with black braid, buttoned close to a red puff tie, and his patent-leather shoes looked like murder-fitted weapons. (5.8)

It's hard not to imagine this one as a scene in a movie. Pete is just such a curated image of masculine cool—even his shoes look homicidal.

As Jimmie and his friend exchanged tales descriptive of their prowess, Maggie leaned back in the shadow. (5.11)

Folks, it's a macho-off. Maggie's taking it all in, though, because she's just set her eyes on someone way cooler than her brother.

He walked to and fro in the small room, which seemed then to grow even smaller and unfit to hold his dignity, the attribute of a supreme warrior. (6.5)

The more force Jimmie shows to the world, the more amazing he thinks he is, and the more respect he wants back. His fights are elevated to battles in his mind, and his self-image is that of a serious combatant.

Here was a formidable man who disdained the strength of a world full of fists. Here was one who had contempt for brass-clothed power; one whose knuckles could defiantly ring against the granite of law. He was a knight. (6.8)

Maggie is <em>so</em> smitten. Here, we see Pete completely through her eyes, and from where she's sitting, he's the ideal model of masculinity: "a knight."

"Say, Mag," said Pete, "give us a kiss for takin' yeh teh deh show, will yer?" (7.27)

Of course Pete expects a kiss after a date. To him, it's an unspoken rule that his masculinity should be rewarded.

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