- Paperback: 435 pages
- Publisher: Mariner Books; unknown edition (March 15, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0395901499
- ISBN-13: 978-0395901496
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 159 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #207,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Street: A Novel Paperback – March 15, 1998
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"Overflows with the classic pity and terror of good imaginative writing." The New York Times
"A powerful, uncompromising work of social criticism. To this day, few works of fiction have so clearly illuminated the devastating impact of racial injustice." -- Coretta Scott King
"A classic of American realism . . . The Street rushes toward its fatalistic climax like a train toward a washed-out bridge." Newsday
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It is a sad tale, filled with sad characters. However, each one’s own quiet madness is fully developed.
Petry’s personification of the street itself verges on Stephen King-style horror, as does her vivid descriptions of the interior apartments.
But it is the hunger of her characters that strikes the most melancholy chord. They are all people we hope we don’t know, and don’t want to know. They are all lost souls caught up in an un-winnable battle against The Street. And although we know from the first gust of wind blowing through the street that none of them will win - none of them can even HOPE to win - we still pray for their success with each turn of the page, until the soft snow falls at last on The Street - blotting out their mere existence.
What I don't understand is why this book has disappeared? If it was such a classic in the 1950's why didn't it carry through like so many other classics?
Lutie Johnson is a single mother trying to rise above the life that fate has dealt her. She is separated from a husband who could never find a job and did not appreciate his wife going off to work, and she is trying to raise their son to want more than the life that white people expect from him. She finds an apartment of her own on 116th Street in Harlem, and even though it is a dirty, filthy trap, it is a place of her own where she could maybe save enough money to get to somewhere better. But Lutie soon learns that the street has other plans for her and that evil lurks at every corner. Anything she tries to improve her situation is thrown back in her face, and as the novel builds towards a certain doom, Lutie must make a decision to stand firm or compromise everything she has always believed in.
What makes "The Street" so unique is Ann Petry's use of personification and metaphor to bring her setting to life. The "street" that traps Lutie and her son is a character that lives and breathes, that pursues and traps them. Petry's examination of racial dissonance and inequality is intelligent and poignant. She paints a grim picture of what it was like to be African American and poor. Much as with Richard Wright's "Native Son," readers know that no satisfying happy ending could await Lutie Johnson, who is very much a victim of her environment. Yet it is an environment that is forged by segregation, an environment that could exist on any street in New York, not just in Harlem. It is an environment that sadly still exists today, which makes Petry's novel a timeless classic, and perhaps a prophetic warning.