Study Guide

Pete in Maggie: A Girl of the Streets

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My Hero…

Pete's a rescuer from the get-go: He saves Jimmie from the other street urchins, and then continues in this savior role later on when he represents the promise of a better life for poor, ragged Maggie. But just because he is seen as a savior doesn't mean he actually is one. Actions, after all, speak a whole lot louder than words. He can ooze machismo all day long, but we see right through him.

That Hair, Those Shoes

Maggie's first impressions of Pete are too good to pass up:

His hair was curled down over his forehead in an oiled bang. His rather pugged nose seemed to revolt from contact with a bristling moustache of short, wire-like hairs. His blue double-breasted coat, edged with black braid, buttoned close to a red puff tie, and his patent-leather shoes looked like murder-fitted weapons. (5.10)

Maggie can't wash that man out of her hair—if looks could kill, he'd be slaying her. While we understand that she's swooning with a schoolgirl crush here, though, note some of the words used to describe Pete: "revolt," "bristling," "murder-fitted weapons." Not exactly the language you'd use to describe someone who actually spends their time saving people, right? So while Maggie looks at Pete and deduces he must have money and manners, as readers we understand quickly that this guy is bad news.

And we're right. While he takes Maggie out, the venues rapidly grow seedier, mirroring the decline of his interests in our main girl. To be clear, Maggie's interests do not wane:

Three weeks had passed since the girl had left home. The air of spaniel-like dependence had been magnified and showed its direct effect in the peculiar off-handedness and ease of Pete's ways toward her. (14.3)

Maggie isn't going anywhere except with Pete, and as he blows her off more and more, she becomes like a neurotic little dog whose affections for her owner simply won't be deterred. As much as Pete disregards and shows disdain for Maggie, though, he eventually turns into a pathetic puppy in his own right when his old flame, Nellie, appears on the scene. After he unceremoniously abandons Maggie, he becomes an exploited dog to Nellie. We're thinking this is just desserts:

Pete did not consider that he had ruined Maggie. If he had thought that her soul could never smile again, he would have believed the mother and brother, who were pyrotechnic over the affair, to be responsible for it. (16.1)

How's that for ownership? Turns out Pete's no better than the rest—like everyone else in the story, he has no sense of responsibility for his own behavior. Our last vision of Pete is as a plastered reject passed out on the barroom floor. It's a bummer of a scene for him, though importantly, his fate isn't as bad as Maggie's. We explore Maggie's fate over on her page elsewhere in this section, but for now we'll say this: Pete is a way worse person than Maggie is, but his fate pales in comparison to hers—which hardly seems fair.

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