The Hallmarks of Decay

       The main character in Maggie: A Girl on the Streets by Stephen Crane experiences the difficult life of growing up and easily falling in love. Stephen Crane had to pay to get this book published because no publishes would sign off with him. They thought no one wanted to read about this girl who grows up and becomes a prostitute. Maggie only becomes a prostitute at the very end and only for a short time before she dies. He doesn't even go into great detail about that part, mainly the book revolves on how Maggie got there in the first place. The three dance hall scenes reveal Maggie's downfall in character by having the first one be a happy, respectful place where Maggie is independent, and the last one being a filthy place where Maggie only depended on Pete.
      The green-hued hall, the first out of three halls, was the most respectful and beautiful one they went to. The people there were classy and respectful; "Men smoked their pipes contentedly" (31). This describes that the men were in a state of happiness while watching the performance. They were enjoying themselves while not bothering the other people, unlike the other two halls. There were many performances that occurred in this hall; from dancers to singers to a ventriloquist act, it was the most entertaining hall. Maggie loved it, "Her cheeks were blushing with excitement and her eyes were glistening. She drew deep breaths of pleasure. No thoughts of the atmosphere of the collar and cuff factory came to her" (34-35). She was so happy and content that she didn't have a single thought in her head about the horrid collar and cuff factory that made her miserable. Maggie is there to have fun with Pete and ends up forgetting all the bad memories. While in this first hall, Maggie is independent and doesn't need Pete by her side the whole time. Even when she arrives home, she rejects Pete's attempt for a kiss.  This changes about the second hall.
      The hall of irregular shape is a downgrade, in appearance and character, from the first hall. The men there are more filthy and inconsiderate with a large, heavy cloud of smoking coming from their pipes. In this second hall, Maggie shows a bit more of a need to be around Pete; "She leaned with a dependent air toward her companion" (57). In the first hall, the crowd and the performances were of a higher level and Maggie had more dignity and self-sufficiency. In this second one, she has become Pete's loyal companion. She doesn't want to leave Pete's side. Pete doesn't do anything about this, and Maggie starts to only breath because Pete breaths, Maggie's independence drops even lower in the last hall. 
        The hilarious hall is the last hall that represents Maggie's downfall. This hall is the most disgusting one, like the other two "The usual smoke was present, but so dense that heads and arms seemed entangled in it. The rumble of conversation was replaced by a roar" (64). As Maggie's character declines, the smoke in the halls incline; the men's level of matureness declines; the noise of conversation inclines. With Pete's "off-handedness and ease" towards Maggie, "her dependence had been magnified and showed its direct effect" on Pete (65). Pete didn't help Maggie by trying to make her independent, he just didn't care and let her do whatever she wanted; therefore, she became dependent on him and followed his every move. She was lost without him, not knowing what to do, or where to go. Pete wanted her gone and told her to "Go deh hel!" (76). He was tired of her and wanted a change, wanted a prettier, smarter girl. 
        Maggie started out as a strong, independent young girl; the hall started out as a beautiful, entertaining center for mannered men. The second hall was more filthy and smoke filled. The men were less mannered and were drinking beer, banging them on the table as they would in those old irish-folk movies; Maggie hated the date at the third hall. The smoke so dense that the people were "entangled in it," the noise so loud it was "replaced by a roar". It wasn't romantic or fun at all for Maggie, accounting for that Pete just left her there with "a mere boy" while he went to hang out with Nellie, "the woman of brilliance and audacity" (66). Pete got tired of Maggie. She became a helpless dog and lost her way when Pete left her. This is why she became a prostitute and ended up dying, because she didn't know how else to get by without Pete.

Megan Long '16