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MonkeyNotes-Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane
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Chapter 8

Maggie begins to hate all her dresses after she begins to go out with Pete. Her mother screams at her for tending to herself so much. Maggie thinks if only she can dress nicely, she will be cherished and loved. She hates the sweatshop where she works. The women who have been there a long time are grizzled with all the hard work. She begins to worry about losing her beauty in the factory. She hates the boss at her work who sits around all day complaining about the women not working hard enough when he pays them five dollars a week. Maggie wishes she had a friend so she could share stories about Pete.

Pete is like a "golden sun to Maggie." He takes her to all forms of popular entertainment. He takes her to a dime museum where they gawk at freaks. He takes her to the Central Park Menagerie and watches her enjoy herself. When he sees a monkey get picked on by other monkeys, he cheers the little monkey on, trying to get it to fight back. He takes her to the Museum of Art and stands around taunting the guards. He canít understand the use of so many jugs. During the evenings, he takes her to plays. Maggie loves the plays most. She and all the other members of the audience cheer on the virtuous heroines and catcall to the vicious villains. The hero always goes from poverty to wealth in these plays. When Maggie leaves the plays, she is always happier. She rejoices over "the way in which the poor and virtuous eventually surmounted the wealthy and wicked." She always wonders after a play if she can imitate the heroineís culture and refinement, even if she has been raised in a tenement house and works in a shirt factory.


Notes

Crane continues the ironic treatment of popular entertainment in this chapter. As Pete takes Maggie to all the public forms of entertainment he can think of, Crane gets the chance to show their insidious affect on poor people like Maggie. As soon as Maggie goes to the hall with Pete, she begins to think she must have better clothes. She is taken up with the idea that if she can only buy the right clothes, she will be "forever cherished and watched over" by someone who loves her. She begins to worry about her looks. She knows they wonít last while she works in the sweatshop. She beings to "see the bloom upon her cheeks as valuable." Here, Maggie is learning that good looks are a sort of commodity.

Pete takes Maggie to the zoo, called then the Central Park Menagerie, and to the Museum of Arts. While Maggie loves all that she sees, Pete stands around bored. He goads the guards and exclaims over the nonsense of putting a bunch of jugs on display. The plays are the forms of popular entertainment which give Crane the most material for ironic portraiture. The plays are melodramas, depicting morality as simple divisions between virtue and vice, virtue always being prettier and always winning in the end. Crane notes that even the most criminal-looking members of the audience cheer for the underdog to win and for the bad guy to be punished. Such a simplistic view of reality will do nothing to prepare Maggie for the life she will be living. It is a form of escape which leaves the viewer with no vision of how to make life more livable.

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