Maggie: A Girl of the Streets deals with the theme of innocence versus experience. Many authors claim that innocence and experience can not exist without its opposite. Innocence is where humans begin, and they must pass through experience during their life. Maggie, author Stephen Crane's main character in Maggie: A Girl of the Streets shows the trauma of the loss of innocence through experience.
After her little brother's death near the beginning of the story, Maggie exists as the sole example of innocence in the story. Her parents drunken rages and constant fighting are tragic representations of the horrors of experience. Her brother Jimmie is the epitome of experience, driving his horses through the city and trampling any innocence upon which they come. He cannot understand how Maggie could possibly remain innocent surrounded by the filth of his world. Maggie seeks only escape from the slums but doesn't wish to become as her family. She latches onto a man named Pete as a symbol of maturity and success who can both appreciate her innocence and incorporate her into his experience. Pete is at first attracted by her purity but eventually abandons her for a woman named Nell. Without Pete to lead her Maggie is lost and becomes alienated even by her own family because of her experiences.
The trauma which is her experience is when she is tossed aside by Pete and her family and forced to wander the streets. While wandering the streets is when Maggie loses all of her innocence. Crane's story ends with Maggie's death and her family's reaction to it. They do not admit that she was forced into experience by them, but rather wonder how she could have lost the innocence they thought they taught her.