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After the fight, Jimmie stays away from home for a few days. When he returns, he finds his mother raving about Maggie. She hasnít come home for days. Mrs. Johnson bewails her fate. She canít believe after her careful rearing of Maggie that Maggie could have turned out so badly. Jimmie canít believe Maggie could have turned out so wicked. Finally, Mrs. Johnson concludes that Maggie had a bad heart and was wicked from the beginning without revealing it until now. Jimmie thinks it would be best to go and get Maggie and bring her home. He wants to avoid all the embarrassing gossip. Mrs. Johnson is shocked and horrified that Jimmie would bring such a vicious girl under his dear motherís roof. Jimmie tries to convince his mother that it would be best to keep Maggie with them in an effort to quiet the scandal. Mrs. Johnson reminds him that the prodigal story was about a son, not a daughter. She refuses to let Maggie back in. Mrs. Johnson spends the rest of the evening fantasizing about Maggie coming home, begging to be let in, and being rebuffed by a scornful and morally righteous mother.
From this point on, Mrs. Johnson uses the story of her daughterís moral downfall in all her court cases. One of the judges finally tells her that the records of all the courts combined show that she is the mother of forty-two daughters who have been ruined. Jimmie publicly damns his sister in order to get some moral distance from her and save his own reputation. Only occasionally does Jimmie question the justice of his condemnation of his sister. When he does, he quickly throws these thoughts aside.
After having introduced his readers to the melodrama of the stage, Crane shows his readers the melodrama of real life. Mrs. Johnson, certainly one of the most vicious characters in literature, becomes morally outraged when his daughter leaves home to live with a man who is treated her well. Jimmie, who has suffered under the violent rule of his mother along with Maggie, canít imagine why Maggie would have left home. The incredible blindness of these two characters imitates the blindness of moral pundits of the late nineteenth century who condemn women like Maggie who made this kind of choice without taking into account the circumstances of poverty and abuse which pushed them in that direction.