In the Stephen Crane novel; Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, Maggie and Jimmie are two siblings being raised within the Lower East Side slums of New York City. The breaking of furniture and fistfights are an everyday occurrence in the broken-down family apartment. The mother and father fight constantly while their children hide frightened. This then is the environment that Maggie and Jimmie struggle with throughout the novel. Their different responses to their environment each led them to different ends. Maggie dreams of a better life and tries to escape her environment, which leads to her eventual suicide, while Jimmie accepts his environment, becomes nihilistic, and lives. Crane's work demonstrates that the reaction to one's environment can greatly affect the outcome of one's life.
From the start, Maggie is a harsh contrast to the slum environment she was born into and has to endure throughout her life. "The girl, Maggie, blossomed in a mud puddle. She grew to be a most rare and wonderful production of a tenement district, a pretty girl None of the dirt of Rum Alley was in her veins" (pg.16) She not only had the physical beauty that others in her environment seemed to lack, but also innocence and a hope that she could escape and be better than what was around in her environment. When Pete visited the apartment after Jimmie agreed to go to a boxing match with him, Maggie observed him. (pg.17) She saw him as something better than anything she has ever known in her world. "Maggie perceived that here was the beau ideal of a man." (pg.19) Therefore, Pete is the infatuation of Maggie because she has never known anything or anyone better than of her environment, and in her mind she views him as a sort of "knight" that could take her to a better life. Over time Pete took Maggie out to different dance halls, and they were amazing to Maggie. This affirmed her belief that Pete could take her to a better world.