Maggie A Girl of the Streets: Novel Summary: Chapter 12

Pete and Maggie sit in a hall listening to an orchestra and drinking beer. On the stage a woman sings a predictably brassy ballad. The woman returns for several encores, wearing less clothing in each successive appearance for the audience of boisterous men. Maggie is pale and she sits submissively next to Pete with the appearance of one beseeching kindness but fearing the worst. In short, she worships him and he makes the most of the situation – ordering the waiters about with an inflated sense of purpose and basking in her attention. At one point he sits back and carefully studies a girl in a wig prancing on the stage in bad imitation of a famous dancer. From time to time Maggie describes her home life and emphasizes the extreme difficulties she was forced to surmount. Holding Maggies arm as though he owns her, Pete replies: “Dey was damn jays.” Maggie considers the violence of her family and looks upon Petes capable muscles. She thinks of her squalid workplace and regards his fine clothes. She is completely optimistic about her future because she trusts Pete to take care of her. Through the haze of the smoke filled room Maggie can see that many of the men in the hall look at her with wolvish expressions and she fears them but their attentions spur Pete to regard the girl as even more of a prize and she notices this. She knows that the men think she is a prostitute and after some time she begins to tremble under the combined gaze. As she and Pete leave they pass near some prostitutes – known by their heavy makeup and faded beauty – and Maggie fearfully pulls her skirts away from them.
Analysis of Chapter 12
Maggie feels secure with Pete and optimistic about the future in large part because shes never experienced anything superior to the experience of being with Pete. Although Maggie doesnt notice, Crane clearly describes this dance hall as more tawdry and base than the one Pete first took Maggie. The men are rowdy, there are no children, the smoke hangs more thickly in the air and the show lacks style. This serves as notice to the reader that Maggie has begun a slide to the bottom of society. While she is indifferent to the quality of the hall, Maggie does notice the lecherous looks of the men and she knows that they consider her a prostitute. She is still innocent enough to recoil from not only the men who would have her but also the actual prostitutes. She sees that Pete regards her as a prize possession but she fails to comprehend the manner in which this relationship puts her in the same milieu as the prostitutes.