The Street

Dogs In Cages: The Dangers of City Living in Ann Petry's The Street College

In Ann Petry’s novel The Street, even the most simple, everyday objects take on fiendish personalities and shifting, threatening aspects. From the cruel wind in the story’s opening chapter to the hard, bitter street itself, glaring situational cruelty and injustice brings vivid color to the narrative. Even the walls, as Petry describes, “were reaching out for her – bending and swaying towards her in an effort to envelop her.” (The Street 12) This haunted woman, the protagonist, Lutie Johnson, stands as a perfect example. Facing much more than just the challenges of an economically disadvantaged single mother, wide-spread discrimination places Lutie at a severe societal disadvantage, while an atmosphere of unapologetic chauvinism subjects her to repeated exploitation and disrespect. The aspects of race and gender, though they are only made obstacles due to tragically backward social norms and systemic inequality, become further and further internalized over the course of the novel. As her own perceptions and actions towards the outside world begin to pervert and twist, Lutie’s race and gender function as both inner and outer demons, providing volatile context for her life as a woman, a provider, and a mother.

The perceptions of...

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