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Chapters 14-19

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We see a scene with a "forlorn woman" walking alone at night, searching for someone in saloon doorways. For a moment we imagine it might be Maggie, but then we discover it is Hattie, a woman who has been seduced and abandoned not by Pete but by Jimmie. She finds Jimmie, and he once again rebuffs her. But when Jimmie goes home, the reader is reminded that an identical situation afflicts Jimmie's own sister, who has returned to face her mother's wrath. Mary is impossibly cruel, holding her silent daughter up to ridicule in front of the assembled neighbors, who treat Maggie like a leper. Jimmie, too, rejects his sister. Cast aside, Maggie leaves; her only shred of comfort comes from the old woman, who offers her shelter.

Quickly, the scene cuts to the next day, in Pete's barroom, where Pete is washing his hands of the entire affair, for which he does not consider himself responsible. Maggie comes to see him at the bar, and Pete angrily sends her away. In response to her question "where kin I go?", he snarls "Oh, go teh hell." Walking away aimlessly, Maggie comes upon a man whose "face was a picture of benevolence," but even he, the personification of the "Grace of God," shudders and turns away from her.

Several months later, on a wet evening, "a girl of the painted cohorts of the city"--a prostitute, and possibly Maggie--is walking the streets of New York. She passes scorned, unnoticed, or leered at, through the busy streets, and eventually finds herself in the blackness near the river. There, a disgusting fat man detaches himself from the shadows and follows the girl; the sounds of the city fade away into silence, and her fate is anyone's guess.

The novel's penultimate chapter finds Pete in a saloon with a half-dozen giggling women; one of them is Nellie. Pete is badly drunk, and spends the evening buying drinks for the party and slurring nonsense about his own goodness, in an attempt, it is implied, to fend off pangs of conscience. Before collapsing, Pete gives Nellie money, and declares pathetically that he is "stuck on" her. When he loses consciousness, she leaves him, saying, "What a damn fool."

In the final scene, Jimmie returns to the tenement with the news that Maggie is dead. His mother chooses this occasion, when it is far too late, to express motherly love and sympathy for her daughter. She works herself into a frenzy of mourning, whipped onwards by Miss Smith. The last words of the novel have Mary, the novel's "sated villain," ironically forgiving her daughter for her imagined sins: "I'll fergive her! I'll fergive her!"


Just as we are not shown the scene of Maggie's seduction, we are not shown its eventual result; her death is shrouded in mystery. It is enough, the novel seems to suggest, to say that Maggie's early and tragic death was a nearly inevitable consequence of her life and her romanticism.

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Hard story

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