The Rhythm Section
Mark Burnell
Contributed by Elene Blackwelder
Chapter 3

Stephanie wakes up in Anne’s apartment. Anne had introduced her to Dean West, her pimp, when she was working as a prostitute. However, Steve, her husband, is unaware of his wife’s background because Anne is too ashamed to tell him. She assumes that her husband’s promiscuity was the price she had to bear for keeping the secret. As Stephanie wakes up, she hears them arguing. Steve no longer wants to have Stephanie at their house because he made a pass at her and she rejected him. When Anne informs Lisa of her husband’s decision, she leaves and heads back to the brothel. There, she argues with West, who demands that she gives him more money from her already-meagre pay. As they argue, Stephanie recalls how Anne had misled her into believing that she needed West’s protection in order to operate as a prostitute. Although she initially thought that this was in her best interest, West turns out to be a ruthless criminal who occasionally raped her, something that Stephanie refers to as West’s attempts to break her. Subsequently, Stephanie is left in a waned and weary state that she tries to hide with make-up. While at the brothel, she becomes so repulsed about her life that she attacks a client with a wine bottle. Afterwards, she packs her bags and runs away from the brothel. She calls Proctor and seeks his intervention to help her escape from West, who will come after her and expecting retribution.


The author describes Stephanie’s transition from a beautiful, innocent teenager to a hardened prostitute who eventually takes on a different persona, Lisa. Anne’s character plays a significant role in this since, just like Lisa, Anne had been a prostitute and had introduced her to the abusive occupation. Both women have to endure the harsh conditions of their work when they get physically abused by their clients. While Stephanie is at the restaurant, the narrator describes how physical abuse had been an accepted norm in their occupation by mentioning the group of prostitutes that “were commenting on the Swede’s injuries with the indifference of accountants discussing tax rebate” (Burnell, 24). Swede is one of their colleagues who had been beaten to a pulp by a client. 

Moreover, the prostituting lifestyle can be miserable and demeaning. Stephanie says, “You don’t know what true degradation is until you have to discount yourself, only to find out it makes no difference” (Burnell, 24). This indicates how these were dehumanized until they despised themselves. Consequently, Anne was stuckin an unhappy marriage because she thought that she deserved her husband’s promiscuity while Stephanie chose to be a druggy in an attempt to deal with her degrading occupation. Furthermore, West’s attempts to break Stephanie had also contributed to the transition from her innocence. Although he raped her multiple times, Stephanie says “with every attempt to break me, West unmanned himself a little more” (Burnell, 27). 

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