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

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Chapter 14

In a "hilarious hall," the orchestra is playing with the single virtue of speed while a woman stands on stage smiling and singing to an audience of people who are completely ignoring her. The hall is so full of smoke that "heads and arms seemed entangled in it." It has been three weeks since Maggie has moved out of her home. She is now more dependent on Pete than ever and Pete is more off-handed in regard to her than he has before. They take a seat and soon Pete exclaims when he sees a woman whom he knows as Nellie. He calls out to this "woman of brilliance" and she invites him and Maggie to join her and her "mere boy" of a companion at their table. She and Pete engage in lively conversation remembering the past until she asks Pete to come with her somewhere.

Pete tells her he can’t go, pointing towards Maggie. Maggie has been watching Pete with complete astonishment. She has never seen him so subservient to anyone before. Pete is practically panting in his efforts to get and keep Nellie’s attention. Nellie’s companion is getting angrier and angrier at her interest in Pete. When Pete says he can’t go with her, though, Nellie turns to her companion and shines her attention on her until he melts with adoration again. Pete gets so nervous that he tells Nellie he must speak to her alone outside about why he can’t go with her. She refuses at first, but then agrees to go with him.

Maggie is left alone at the table with the young man. She is horrified at Pete’s abandonment of her. The young man drinks one drink after another until he becomes quite drunk. He turns to Maggie and tells her he will just have to be with her since it’s now clear that Nellie and Pete aren’t going to return. He tells Maggie she isn’t too bad looking when viewed alone. When she’s seen next to Nellie, she looks terrible, but alone, she’s "not half bad." Maggie tells him she has to go home. He repeats the words over and over and finally gets up to escort her to the elevated train. He pays her fare and falls down as her train departs.


Notes

In the third of the hall scenes, Maggie finally realizes the extent of her insecurity in her relationship with Pete. When Pete sees Nellie, the "woman of brilliance," he is transformed in Maggie’s eyes. She finally realizes that Pete is not the perfect form of manhood that her illusions have constructed out of him. He becomes a coy, flattering man in the presence of a woman who has some power.

More pressing is the concern about what will happen to Maggie now that the man with whom she is living doesn’t want her any more. Crane has already shown that Maggie’s family will not take her back in. The only other place for Maggie is on the streets working as a prostitute. In typical naturalist form, Crane has shown the social determinism of a young woman of Maggie’s social circumstances who is also pretty.

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