Maggie A Girl of the Streets: Novel Summary: Chapter 8

During the week following her outing with Pete, Maggie forms a dislike for her old worn clothes and begins to envy the fine adornments and mannerisms of the women she sees in the street. She believes these women to be completely happy. She also considers her workplace from a new perspective and worries that it is only a matter of time before she becomes one of the shriveled petty women who gripe and gossip their way through the dreary workday. She begins to loathe the sight of the fat foreigner who is her boss at the factory. She longs for a confidant but her mother is usually drunk and spends her sober moments taking things to the pawnbrokers. Her brother Jimmie only comes to the apartment when completely inebriated and lacks a better place to pass the night. Maggie and Pete begin to go out regularly. He takes her to a dime museum full of freaks and they spend several Sunday afternoons at the Central Park Menagerie and the Museum of Arts. Normally Pete doesnt take much interest in their surroundings but he is impressed one day at the Menagerie by a small monkey that is threatening to fight a cage full of larger monkeys. At the museum Pete ignores the exhibits and spends his time there trying to stare down the guard. He does, however, take some pleasure in moralizing over the mummies, but more often than not is annoyed by the displays – particularly one of hundreds of jugs in a row that serves no purpose that he can see. Most of all Maggie enjoys going to see melodramatic plays in which the beautiful heroine is inevitably rescued from her cruel guardian by a hero with beautiful sentiments. Maggie is like most of the audience who, whether they were given to vice or not, universally approves of virtuous acts on the stage, boos and hisses the evil characters and identifies wholly with the unfortunate characters going so far as to mourn openly when calamity befalls a lost soul. These plays typically follow the heros progress from poverty to wealth and triumph. The plays lead Maggie to think that perhaps her own life could be improved in a similar manner.
Analysis of Chapter 8
This chapter details the growth of Pete and Maggies relationship. Its obvious he enjoys taking her to see what he considers respectable and edifying pass times but it is also obvious that he cares little for such diversions himself. Rather he derives pleasure from impressing her with his supposed worldliness. As evidenced by his disdain for the antique jugs on display in the museum he is much more concerned with showing off to Maggie than he is in broadening his own worldview. The details regarding the melodramatic plays marks the second time in the novel that Crane uses a show to characterize Maggies psychological changes. In this case the play demonstrates to Maggie that her life is truly bereft of tenderness and that a hero, preferably someone who has also experienced hardship, can save her from a life of despair and hardship.