Maggie A Girl of the Streets: Novel Summary: Chapter 6

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Pete continues to tell Jimmie about his triumphant fights. Pete notices that Maggie is paying close attention and his descriptions become more boastful. He says to Maggie: "Say, Mag, I'm stuck on your shape. It's outa sight." As he walks back and forth in the small apartment Maggie begins to think that he is truly a great person and very much out of place in her family's apartment. Pete details an experience in which a nicely dressed man bumped into him on the street and called him an "insolen' ruffin" to which Pete responded "Go teh hell an' git off deh eart'." This upset the fellow who insisted on giving Pete a lecture so Pete struck him to the ground and went about his business. After Pete and Jimmie leave to go to the boxing match Maggie comes to the conclusion that Pete is a gentleman who knows the ways of the better classes. She knows only a world full of hardship and struggle and Pete, she believes, is a man who can stand against it. She imagines that Pete's job at the bar must bring him into contact with interesting people and lots of pretty girls who admire him because he has money to spend. She believes that Pete will return for another visit so she spends some of her precious earnings on a flowered lambrequin. She hangs it on the mantle above the stove and deludes herself that it adds an element of refinement to the apartment. The following Sunday Pete fails to appear and Maggie is ashamed at her feeble attempt to beautify the apartment. A few days later, however, Pete does appear - in a new suit. "Say, Mag," he prompts, "put on her bes' duds Friday night an' I'll take yehs teh deh show. See?" He departs immediately. Maggie spends the next three days at the collar factory dreaming of Pete's life and the various women who must vie for his attention. She imagines that there must be one woman among the many who Pete favors. Maggie imagines Pete's favorite girl to be charming but with a contemptible disposition. She also imagines the place he intends to take her. She is very afraid that she will seem small and ugly, "mouse-like" in comparison to what she is sure will be glamorous surroundings. When Maggie arrives home from work Friday evening she finds that her mother has been on a whiskey binge and has broken all the furniture and torn down the lambrequin before collapsing on the floor. Mary wakes up long enough to curse at Maggie. Later that evening Pete arrives to find Maggie dressed in a worn black dress and waiting for him in the cold room among the rubble of the apartment. Mary, still lying on the floor swears at her daughter. Maggie and Pete depart.
Analysis of Chapter 6
Maggie is attracted to Pete not only because he is strong but also because his nice clothes and ease with money seems to offer something more than her present surroundings. Pete's attraction to Maggie is obviously physical and he says as much when he admires her shape. From the beginning, then, their relationship rests upon Maggie's need for security. Because she cannot conceive of herself as attractive Maggie can only wonder and be thankful for Pete's attentions. Pete, on the other hand, derives a sense of superiority from Maggie's attentions, which increases his own sense of self worth. Thus, the less secure Maggie feels the more empowered Pete becomes. Maggie's insecurities are symbolized by the lambrequin - a symbol of domesticity and order that Maggie uses to try and beautify her family's apartment. She hangs it above the mantle, the traditional site of warmth and security, but the poverty of the apartment and the obvious lack of familial tenderness, undermines her effort. Mary recognizes the lambrequin as an intruder upon the family's Bowery existence when she later mocks it and then tears it down in one of her drunken rampages.

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