Maggie A Girl of the Streets: Novel Summary: Chapter 14

Three weeks after Maggie leaves home to be with Pete they sit in yet another dance hall. At every table sat a woman of questionable character, the musicians were haphazard and their chief strength was speed. There is a woman onstage singing but the overly riotous crowd ignores her and drowns her song out with their violent conversation. When Pete and Maggie take a table by the door the woman already seated there vies for Petes attention but failing departs. Maggie is even more obviously dependent upon Pete than before. A woman whom the narrator characterizes as being “a woman of brilliance and audacity” attended by a “mere boy” takes seats near them. Pete recognizes her immediately and calls out to her: “By Gawd, theres Nellie.” Maggie notices that the woman looks men directly in the eye and that she is dressed in the height of fashion with clothes that flatter her figure to great effect. She wears no jewelry nor did she wear makeup – both traits associated with prostitutes. The woman Nellie recognizes Pete and bids that he and his “lady friend” join she and her companion. Maggie is seated between Pete and the “mere boy”. At first the “mere boy” welcomes the newcomers but his manner soon cools when he perceives that Nellie is showing Pete the bulk of her attention. Maggie notices immediately that the woman is familiar with Pete and even knows the amount of his salary. Pete questions Nell about an affair in Buffalo and she mockingly derides the man she left there because he had not the means she expected so she left. Maggie sees that Petes eyes sparkle when he talks to Nell. She tries to think of something to add to the lively conversation but can think of nothing to say. Occasionally Nell looks her way but seems to look right through her and pays her no regard. The “mere boy” persists for awhile in patronizing Pete and making great displays of wealth but his noisome manner interrupts the talk and Nell commands: “Do keep still Freddie! You gibber like an ape, dear.” After some talk Nell suggests that she and Pete leave to have “one hell of a time” together but Pete resists and insists that he cannot because he has his lady friend with him. “Oh, thell with her” the woman responds but Pete continues to resist. Nell affects to be hurt by Petes refusal and warns him that she will not be so willing next time the opportunity presents itself. Pete begs her to step aside for a moment so he can explain why he must remain with Maggie but Nell feigns indifference. She returns her attentions to the “mere boy” who was at the moment wondering whether he should pick a fight with Pete. When Nell gives him her attentions, however, Freddie perks up and asks her to “shake that Bowery jay.” Pete becomes desperate to explain but Nell fails to see why she should listen to his reasons. After some more talk Nell agrees to go out with Pete. Freddie is immediately offended but Nell whispers soothing words in his ear and he agrees to wait patiently. As Maggie dumbly watches Pete and Nell exit together while Pete continues to offer excuses and the woman continues to wave them off. Once they have departed Maggie feels that something momentous has happened but she cannot say just what it is. She is surprised not only by his sudden departure but also by his submission to the woman. After theyve left Freddie waits for a half an hour in silence and then explains to Maggie that he knew Nell would run off all along which is why he never gives his real name to “those people.” He laments the money he spent on Nell and drinks more cocktails to drown his disappointment. Maggie hears little of what he says and keeps her attention focused on the door, waiting for Pete to return. After some time and some more drinks Freddie works himself into a positive attitude and proposes that he and Maggie make the best of it. Though he loudly proclaims Maggie to be inferior to Nell he insists that she will do fine for the evening and that she is “not half bad.” Maggie announces that she is going home and the somewhat mystified Freddie helps her into a car and pays her fare before falling off the steps as her coach departs.
Analysis of Chapter 14
This third dance hall is significantly more drab, more smoke filled and less respectable than the others. We are led to conclude that Pete is no longer concerned with impressing Maggie or maintaining her innocence and honor. In fact, she must compete with a prostitute for Petes attention when they take a table. We are left to wonder at Petes motives in taking the girl to a place where men come to find women. Whatever his motives he does find Nell. This woman is characterized as a consummate opportunist and much more successful than the other prostitutes who pursue men but are not pursued by them. Nell knows Petes salary and she knows how to make him want her – by remaining aloof. In this she is the opposite of Maggie whose vulnerability is all too obvious. Having never been anything but submissive to Pete, Maggie is shocked by the change in his demeanor while in Nells presence. Pete is openly desperate for her attention and Nell uses this to lure him from the hall and away from Maggie. Not only does Maggie lack the capacity for fight for Pete but she also fails to understand that she has been abandoned until the “mere boy” Freddie solicits her for sex.