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The craftsman
Volume XXXI, Number 3 (December 1916)

The "play-girl" in fiction,   pp. 217-223 PDF (2.6 MB)


Page 221


DISCUSSED BY ROBERT W. CHAMBERS
there have always been the young 'play-girls.' We notice her more
today because she is better dressed, more sure of herself, more con-
vinced that her way is right and that play is essential. You have
always seen her in Paris, but there the 'play-girl' has more intelligence,
she is closer to the intellectual life of the nation. In America we have
these young, barren spirits without tradition, without a sense of
beauty, without an understanding of art or a seeking for it, and so
naturally they are more remote from the average existence because
there are not the links between these young souls and society that there
are in Paris or Italy or Russia today, where practically all youth has
its knowledge of music, its understanding of the traditions of its
nation, its pride in its own city and the works of art in it. Where the
interest of the new type is limited to a sheer seeking of ephemeral joy,
a love of clothes, a desire to be physically attractive, there is less
possibility of companionship, less possibility of growth out into other
associations. In Paris, in Italy, a love of beauty is in the blood of
all the people. It is not regarded as "culture," but as a natural
in-
heritance. Here in America, the unawakened minds are surrounded
with a sense of waste, of extravagance, of ignorance, and out of this
condition is born a product ambitious for comfort and for the money
which brings comfort. They must be clothed and fed, they want to
be happy and they feel that beauty and brightness can only make them
happy.
   "Of course, much of this condition is due to our education or
rather, our lack of it. We do not, in our schools, prepare young people
to understand life, to live it intelligently and wisely. We make the
newcomers to our land dissatisfied with their ancestors, ashamed of
their immediate existence, and then with the freedom we offer our
young people, this new generation in America rushes out into the
life that seems to them complete and joyous.    Our cabarets are
filled by the 'play-girl,' and a new kind of life is created, called
Broadway.
   "But I find as I study these young people that not all is desire
for
gaiety, for personal beauty and comfort and brightness-there is the
old dominating impulse to mate. And this impulse is really stronger
in them than anything else. Of course not all of them have this oppor-
tunity. Their life leads them out into adventure, often beyond, to
disaster, but the instinct for home making is just as strong in these
seemingly barren, beautiful young creatures as in any phase of
society, in any period or age. Indeed, often it is the desire for this
very thing that leads these young people to Broadway; but what they
want is a home, the safe retreat, the man that belongs to them, the child
that needs them.
221


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