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The Street Archives > Week #2 Discussion: THE STREET (Chs. 6-12)

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message 1: by Ken (last edited Oct 08, 2020 03:41AM) (new)

Ken | 676 comments Mod
The discussion of this book has been broken into three parts as follows:

Week #1: Oct. 1 - 7 Chs. 1-5 inclusive
Week #2: Oct. 8 - 14 Chs. 6-12 inclusive
Week #3: Oct. 15-21 Chs. 13-18 (End)

Please try to confine posts to events in each week's chapters so that there are no spoilers for fellow readers.



Today we move to the middle portion of the book, where Ann Petry continues to provide shifting points of view to offer a lens into the lives of people in Harlem during the 1940s.

What strikes you from these middle chapters?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of Chs. 6-12, in your opinion?

Is the writing sustaining your interest? In what way?

How is the book historical and how is it contemporary?

How believable are plot developments and character behaviors, in your estimation?

Do you see any foreshadowing? Can you tell where Petry is going with all of this? What evidence can you cite for your predictions?

Anything else you want to bring to the group's attention after reading Chs. 6-12?


message 2: by Diane (new)

Diane Barnes We get deeper into the lives and stories of those we met in previous chapters. I did like getting the backstory on Mrs. Hedges, and it gave me a lot of insight into what propels her. And sympathy, I might add. The relationship between her and Junta was surprising. Putting Junta into the mix changes a lot for Lutie, unbeknownst to her. Here she is thinking she has a shot at a better life with her singing, and now Boots has been told to leave her alone. I also liked what Petry did with that character. In a number of occasions she likened his moves and body language to those of a cat, then names him Boots. Masculine, but definitely a pet's name.
And then, poor Bub, being singled out by the Super as a way to punish Lutie.
My thoughts on Junta are that he appears to be the most complicated of these characters. Not at all attractive in appearance, he seems to be a kind man who has achieved power through his money and contacts. He's also white.


message 3: by Angela (new)

Angela Great insight re Boots. I love Mrs. Hedges’ presence, which Lutie has first found off-putting or even malicious. The backstory shines a whole new light on her actions, and Junto’s apparent reverence for her could, in the end, save Lutie. But who knows? No « sympathy for the devil » Jones... totally malevolent. There’s plenty of tension and suspense in these chapters.


message 4: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) I see Junto quite differently. He is like a spider waiting for his prey. He stifles Lutie's chances at bettering herself because he "wants her" for himself. He is Jones with more finesse and less violence, but he is another man who wants to possess her. In fact, this book has a dearth of good men. I would say the husband could have been a good man in better circumstances, but while I see what shapes them, these men are mostly predators.

Mrs. Hedges backstory gives me an understanding of her character that makes her window sitting make sense. She is, indeed, the eyes of the neighborhood and she knows it from every angle. Junto's relationship with her gives him a softer side and show he can be caring, and their story together explains both his feelings for her and how he happens to be in the position he occupies in the neighborhood--which is not typical for a white man. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when she saved Lutie.

But, Lutie being saved has put Bub in danger. Somehow, he has been the character I have been most worried about from the beginning. I was proud of him for listening to his gut and not falling for Jones' scheme to involve him in the theft of the mail, but Jones is a ticking time bomb, and Min and Bub are both easy targets. I'm afraid Min is at risk for much more savage an outcome than just being thrown out of the apartment.


message 5: by Ken (last edited Oct 08, 2020 06:11AM) (new)

Ken | 676 comments Mod
I agree, Sara, that Junto is bad news. Although he is lauded by both Boots and Mrs. Hedges for his equal treatment of blacks and whites, it seems to me that he is an accomplice in Mrs. Hedges' prostitution business and that he sees the same thing Hedges' sees in her: a profitable challenge.

Speaking of prostitution, I found the back story of how Mrs. Hedges' got INTO prostitution rather lame. A girl in trouble gets taken in. A young man shows up to see her when she's away. Mrs. Hedges invites him in to wait and then says, "Hmn. I could make money on this sort of thing."

It seemed rushed and poorly done. Probably unnecessary, too. Do I wonder how a Madam becomes a Madam? Not really. She's just another madam.

The other thing that did not ring true in this segment was the bit about the cross that Min puts up. The Supe is deftly described and his inner thoughts prove him to be a psychopath of sorts. But his rearing back from the cross is a bit of a clunker, reminding me of Dracula falling back from garlic and crosses and sunlight. B-grade horror, in other words.

"A dearth of good men." I'll say! The only decent male is the man-in-progress, Bub.

More later...


message 6: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) I agree, Ken, weak in both instances. I had not given much thought to Mrs. Hedges' entry into the business, I was more caught up in the fire and the results of that. Petry does seem to want to draw her as a sympathetic madam, so perhaps it is supposed to make her more palatable that she stumbled into prostitution rather than calculatingly starting a business that preys on young women who are desperate.

Laughing about your Dracula analogy--spot on.


message 7: by Laysee (new)

Laysee | 54 comments The dracula analogy is funny, Ken. It is clunky but I don't care. I was just so relieved for Min that the cross that the root doctor provided kept Jones from hurting her.

Re Mrs. Hedge and 'Puss in Boots' (great insight, Diane), they each have their own sad backstory, which you hope would make them more sympathetic to the plight of colored folks like themselves. But no, they belonged to the same camp as Junto, the seemingly generous but manipulative white man, to exploit their own. Perhaps, it only serves to emphasize how hapless and therefore ruthless Mrs. Hedge and Boots had to be in order to survive. That said, I am grateful to Mrs. Hedge for coming to Lutie's rescue.

I agree with Sara that there are no good men in this book and I worried, too, about Bub who was growing up with no good male role models in his life. He seemed like a well brought-up and thoughtful child. Will he have a better chance at life than the other men in the story?


message 8: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) It struck me, reading this: "the seemingly generous but manipulative white man", that even when they have flown from their white jobs to their supposed haven, they are not free of the white man. Junto owns almost everything in this community. They are paying the white man, even when they do not know that they are.


message 9: by Laysee (last edited Oct 08, 2020 07:25AM) (new)

Laysee | 54 comments "They are paying the white man, even when they do not know that they are."
Sara, spot on!


message 10: by Diane (new)

Diane Barnes Min's cross and Jones reluctance to be in its presence, and also him seeing crosses in everything he looked at, was, to me, symblomatic of his evil. Psychopath, yes, but afraid of the goodness implied by the cross.
I feel that there are many "clunky" scenes and explanations in this book, but wasn't this Petry's first novel? It hasn't ruined the reading for me and Petry still gets her point across. Whites are a problem to blacks, blacks deal with suppressed rage in every scenario, and successful blacks have to figure it out. The scene where Lutie and Boots were pulled over for speeding had me holding my breath, but money took care of that one.


message 11: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) It hasn't ruined the reading for me either, Diane. In fact, while I am reading it doesn't feel "clunky", that only emerges in retrospect. There have been several scenes that required breath-holding, and the pull over was definitely one of them. I can feel the fear in this book. Lutie is never without it. She fears her economic situation, her encounters with whites, her ability to raise Bub to be different. In fact, the only time she is confident is really with Boots and then she ends up reflecting on how close a call it might have been, that if she had ended up in the river no one would have even known where she went.


message 12: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 241 comments Mod
Diane, what a great point about Boots’ name. Also interesting about Junto. Maybe not just his money and contacts, but he’s also described as someone who treats blacks and whites the same, and black people feel they can trust him. But maybe as Sarah says, he uses this to lure them.

Sometimes it’s a little too pat, but I like the way Petry gives us the backstory of each character to explain what got them to where they are. We all have reasons why we come up short, whether they are a valid excuse or not. I do agree with Ken that she did a poor job when it comes to Mrs. Hedges madam story, but the fire stuff was good, especially her reaction to hair.

And I actually love the voodoo stuff. A sprinkle of magical realism, and with the cross, maybe how guilt is the actual power. Kind of like martial arts--using your enemies force against them.

Like Laysee says, the lack of role models for Bub is a serious issue, but it feels real. In the end of this section it felt like Bub’s moral core, maybe unlike his mother’s, is still intact, and that gives me hope.


message 13: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 241 comments Mod
Two things really struck me in this section. One was when Lutie walks by the man who’s been stabbed, the way she compared the dead man’s shoes--worn out with gaping holes--and the police officer’s shiny new black ones. I thought that was artfully done. Sort of a street-level observation.

What has been really bugging me though is why doesn’t Lutie have any girlfriends? We can’t all have mamas or grannys stearing us in the right direction, but we can have friends, and if Lutie had some, they might be able to help her right about now.


message 14: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) Kathleen--nice pickup on the shoes.

I think Lutie's lack of girlfriends can be explained by two things: (1) she is lovely and other girls might feel threatened by that. If they have men they would be afraid of losing them, and if not they might feel jealous or intimidated. She is also very aloof, because she is frightened (maybe rightfully so) of those around her. (2) she has been living for years separated from her own world...dwelling in the world of white people with spotless kitchens. She has not maintained her roots and this apartment and street are new to her, so no friends unless you make them. She has her father's girlfriend, which seems to be a lukewarm relationship, and that is the only woman we have heard mentioned. Made me think it is a tough world without sisters.

I agree that her life would be easier if she were not so very isolated, but I'm not sure that these people are not primarily so busy trying to keep their heads above water that it wouldn't be natural to shun friendship. Caring would mean more responsibility for another person's welfare. Mrs. Hodges seems to be the "friendliest" person we have met--and that is quite a stretch.

I also like the interpretation that the guilt is the driver of Jones' reaction to the cross. Superstitions are prevalent in places where people lack education, so he would believe, as Min does, in the power of symbols and potions.


message 15: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrog) | 271 comments Ken wrote: "The discussion of this book has been broken into three parts as follows:

Week #1: Oct. 1 - 7 Chs. 1-5 inclusive
Week #2: Oct. 8 - 14 Chs. 6-12 inclusive
Week #3: Oct. 15-21 Chs. 13-18 (End)

Pleas..."


I've begun to read everyone's comments here and will continue to do so. I will most likely take time to respond variously, but please don't be offended if I can't get to all of your posts.

These are the questions I'm going to briefly answer here:
How is the book historical and how is it contemporary?
How believable are plot developments and character behaviors, in your estimation?

Because the perspective Petry brings in her storytelling, I trust that this further complements the historical context I previously had concerning the 1940s. I am very happy to read so much about a female protagonist written by a woman. Many of the details about ascribed "women's work" resound with relatable and revealing details. I believe not only Lutie but the numerous other characters presented here.

So much has stayed the same over 70 years later, so I am not surprised yet greatly saddened to read these believable details.
Because the characters are developed more deeply, I find this believable rather than a single character reacting to flat characters surrounding her. I find Lutie to be constantly weighing options, making choices, judging those around her, and also discovering (or being tricked) about others as she makes decisions.


message 16: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrog) | 271 comments Diane wrote: "We get deeper into the lives and stories of those we met in previous chapters. I did like getting the backstory on Mrs. Hedges, and it gave me a lot of insight into what propels her. And sympathy, ..."

I like the development of the characters, too, for they allow me to weigh and judge different actions I would make -- and then I question, did I make the same choice that Lutie made? The back story of each reveals that they are facing the same challenges, and their choices shape the next phase of life. I'm continually struck by how limited those options and choices are, so there is a common acceptance of how life turns out.


message 17: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrog) | 271 comments Angela wrote: "Great insight re Boots. I love Mrs. Hedges’ presence, which Lutie has first found off-putting or even malicious. The backstory shines a whole new light on her actions, and Junto’s apparent reverenc..."

Ah . . . . I'm suspicious.
Even in my notes, I wondered if Lutie could really be happy with anyone if she has to come from the place of "scrambling, scraping together, and simply surviving." I'm struck by how few options women had in the 1940s, and that makes "the street" and all the people on it a bit tragic at this point in the story. No matter what they do, they continue to move but find themselves returning to the same place on the journey.


message 18: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrog) | 271 comments Sara wrote: "It hasn't ruined the reading for me either, Diane. In fact, while I am reading it doesn't feel "clunky", that only emerges in retrospect. There have been several scenes that required breath-holding..."

Ken wrote: "I agree, Sara, that Junto is bad news. Although he is lauded by both Boots and Mrs. Hedges for his equal treatment of blacks and whites, it seems to me that he is an accomplice in Mrs. Hedges' pros..."

I agree that Lutie's fear is palpable. I am cheering for her, but I don't think she'll have a happy ending with any person other than Bud for quite a while. I'm glad so many red flags flash for her, for those may be the intuitive moments that help keep her safe. The fear is so deep-set, and she reacts so decisively -- yes, perhaps rashly -- because she is well aware of the insurmountable problems.


message 19: by Ken (last edited Oct 12, 2020 08:14AM) (new)

Ken | 676 comments Mod
Although questions of race and gender are the most obvious parallels between this book's 1940's setting and today, little ones creep in, too, like this bit from p. 223:

"Junto had sent [Boots] to a doctor who performed a slight, delicate, dangerous operation on his ear.

"'You'll be all right in a month or so,' said the doctor. 'In the meantime mail this letter to your draft board.' The letter stated that Boots Smith was ill and unable to report for a physical examination. And, of course, when he was finally examined, he was rejected."


Clearly Boots didn't have a rich daddy. If he did, there'd be no need for "delicate, dangerous" operations to dodge the draft. Just the letter so you didn't have to serve with all the "losers" who, perhaps, you would later in life pretend to admire, even though you pay no taxes to support them (or the police, or law and order).

You guessed it. I chuckled darkly, thinking "Cadet Bone Spurs" before turning the page.

Ah, the joys of reading.


message 20: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 241 comments Mod
A dark chuckle indeed, Ken.

Here's another quote (p. 205, after Lutie and Bub's trip to the ER where they saw the cut-up young girl) that can be applied to multiple current goings-on, including some you mention above:

"Lutie got that same jolting sense of shock and then of rage, because these people, all of them--the girl, the crowd in back of her--showed no horror, no surprise, no dismay. They had expected this. They were used to it. And they had become resigned to it."


message 21: by Cindy (last edited Oct 12, 2020 10:58AM) (new)

Cindy Tebo | 68 comments For me, the strength of this novel revolves around the female characters while its biggest flaw are the male characters.

With the exception of Bub, all the men seem to be cut from the same cloth--they drink, cheat, and/or prey on women. They are more like stereotypes than well-developed characters.

Some try to find jobs but can't so they turn to illegal activities. Or they let the women work while they become drifters. Ones that do have jobs like Jones are creepy. Even Lutie's father is an alcoholic who likes to party and lets one of his lovers become a bad influence on Bub.

Junto reminds me a lot of Jones the way he watches everything at the Casino. Just because he has more money doesn't make him less creepy. He uses his power to get what he wants.

Lutie is separated from her husband, Jim. There is no mention of whether or not his father wants to stay in touch with Bub. The issue is never addressed and the reader is left to assume that Bub's father doesn't care about him.

Is it because Lutie wants it that way? Is it by mutual agreement? I also find it odd that Bub doesn't ask or mention his father. Wouldn't it be normal to miss one's father? Especially, since Jim was raising Bub while Lutie was working.

So far, the only male who seems to be unscathed is Ben Franklin. Lutie's admiration of him has not helped her own cause. On one hand, he gives her hope and on another, unrealistic expectations. Sometimes a good work ethic isn't enough to succeed. Lutie never seems to get that lucky break.


message 22: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Tebo | 68 comments Sara wrote: "Kathleen--nice pickup on the shoes.

I think Lutie's lack of girlfriends can be explained by two things: (1) she is lovely and other girls might feel threatened by that. If they have men they would..."


Sara, good points about why Lutie might not have girlfriends or anyone she can really rely on. How lonely that must have been for her. Mrs. Chandler was the closest person she had to a girlfriend when she was a maid.

"Sometimes, when she was going to Jamaica, Mrs. Chandler would go to New York. And they would take the same train. On the ride down they would talk--about some story being played up in the newspapers, about clothes, or some moving pictures...But when the train pulled into Grand Central, the wall was suddenly there (p. 43).

I have the sad feeling that every attempt Lutie makes to better her life she will only find more walls like the one between her and Mrs. Chandler.


message 23: by Ken (new)

Ken | 676 comments Mod
Cindy wrote: "For me, the strength of this novel revolves around the female characters while it's biggest flaw are the male characters.

With the exception of Bub, all the men seem to be cut from the same cloth-..."



Cindy,

Agree completely about the men making men in general look awful. As I read the book, I got the impression that one driving force to Petry's art was anger.


message 24: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) I agree that this book comes from a very angry place. I would not be surprised to find that she based a lot of this on personal experience. This was the first novel written by an African-American woman to sell more than a million copies. I'm betting every black woman with any money to spare bought it. It was probably the first time they felt their own voices on the page. Why is it not better known?


message 25: by Sara (last edited Oct 12, 2020 11:23AM) (new)

Sara (phantomswife) Interestingly, she was raised in a small town and had a much less discriminatory experience than this book depicts. When she went to New York to study, she taught in Harlem and discovered the kind of experiences most blacks were having. So, her anger was more for the things she saw happening to others than the things she had had to experience herself.

The Wikipedia page is worth reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ann_Petry


message 26: by Ken (new)

Ken | 676 comments Mod
Sara wrote: "Interestingly, she was raised in a small town in Maine and had a much less discriminatory experience than this book depicts. When she went to New York to study, she taught in Harlem and discovered ..."

Interesting that she was born in Old Saybrook, right next to Old Lyme, which she put in this book. My grandmother lived for years in Old Lyme, so I logged a lot of summer months down there at the beach as a kid (yes, I was a kid once).

I looked but didn't see reference to her being raised in Maine. Help?


message 27: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) Sorry Ken, my mistake. Reading two things at one time. I'll correct.


message 28: by Diane (new)

Diane Barnes I too see a lot of anger here, and her efforts to explain the effects of racism on the people of the street sometimes gets in the way of the story. Surely there were good black men trying to do the best for their families, but she chose not to portray any of them. I also wondered about Jim, her ex-husband not being involved in any way in Bub's life. He just disappeared with no explanation.


message 29: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Tebo | 68 comments Diane wrote: "I too see a lot of anger here, and her efforts to explain the effects of racism on the people of the street sometimes gets in the way of the story. Surely there were good black men trying to do the..."

Diane, I agree. While she was working as a maid for two years, Jim was watching Bub. Bub never even asks about his father. That just seems very strange. To me, it's a loose end that Petry decided not to focus on.

I wonder if this novel is somehow a response to Richard Wright's, "Native Son," which was published six years before Petry's book. One of the flaws of Wright's novel is his weak portrayal of women. Is this Petry's response? I guess there's no way to really answer that question.


message 30: by Cindy (last edited Oct 13, 2020 09:51AM) (new)

Cindy Tebo | 68 comments Sara wrote: "Interestingly, she was raised in a small town and had a much less discriminatory experience than this book depicts. When she went to New York to study, she taught in Harlem and discovered the kind ..."

I'm not so sure I completely agree with Wikipedia's assessment. They were not as financially deprived as those living in Harlem. However, prejudice can be very insidious and just under the radar. I'm sure Petry experienced the wall just like the one that existed between her fictional character, Lutie Johnson and Mrs. Chandler.

It's also interesting to note that Richard Wright's novel, "Native Son," received far more recognition than Petry's novel which was somehow forgotten.

Had it not been for this group, I would never have heard about this novel or read it. In some English classes, "Native Son," is required reading. I don't recall ever seeing an English class where "The Street" is required reading. Maybe that has changed or needs to change.

As an African-American female writer, Petry not only experienced racism but sexism as well. Maybe that's why this story seems so angry. It's her response to the injustices she and other women have endured.


message 31: by Ken (new)

Ken | 676 comments Mod
Cindy wrote: "Sara wrote: "Interestingly, she was raised in a small town and had a much less discriminatory experience than this book depicts. When she went to New York to study, she taught in Harlem and discove..."


It would be interesting, Cindy, to see if Ann Petry did read Native Son.

As for women writers having greater difficulties finding recognition in literary fiction, I wonder if it would have been any different if Ann Petry had used a pseudonym or used YA writer S.E. Hinton's trick and gone with initials only, leading to the assumption by most readers of The Outsiders (when it came out) that the author was a male.


message 32: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) Cindy - I did not mean to imply that she did not experience unmasked racism. Obviously, she did, and certainly she did when she left for the city and found herself in a less sheltered environment. I do not believe this book could have been written from anything but a place of anger.

Your point about Native Son is a good one, and it would have been interesting to know her reaction. I would venture to guess that she thought the black men, as a whole, failed to step up for their families and that the women carried the burden of both the work and the raising of the children in the society, while the men just found ways to "check out".

Ken - I would imagine the need to hide her identity would have been another thing to add to the rage. She did sale a huge number of books when she released this title, even though she has faded into obscurity since, and she has other writings, this being her first. I would love to read more and see if she mellows or if men get the same treatment in all her work.

I doubt the use of initials would have concealed her identity with this particular book. It reeks of having been written by a woman to me. It must have taken a lot of courage to write and/or publish this during this time period. It seems it would have angered the white establishment to have such a stark condemnation out there, or wouldn't they have noticed or cared? I wonder how many whites would have read it.


message 33: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 241 comments Mod
I don't know how many experiences of racism it would take to get under someone's skin, but the few she experienced as a child according to the wikipedia article would have been enough for me!

I found an interesting article that I'll wait til we're done to share, but there's this quote (not a spoiler, but I'll put in spoilers for space) in case anyone's interested: (view spoiler)

Also--we mentioned Ben Franklin, and in this article was this line:
"The ghost of Ben Franklin mocks: “Junto” is the name of a social club formed by Franklin in the 1700s."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junto_(...
There's some irony!


message 34: by Matthew Ted (new)

Matthew Ted | 89 comments Hi all,

Sorry, I am only just catching up now as I'm writing my MA dissertation and stupidly reading about 4 other books on the go!

I agree with this idea of anger so far, and frankly, I am loving it. I found Boots' discussion on himself and the Germans concerning the War just fascinating. As a 23 year old male, I couldn't care less that the only men being portrayed are 'bad'; it is true that Petry might be excluding certain good males that must have been around but that isn't really the point, is it? In a way, I think she is deliberately showing us the extreme. And, it wouldn't surprise me if that is a good portrait of men either. Men have been glorified enough, let's be honest.

The one thing that continues, on every page to astound me, is how seamlessly Petry can move from the present to the past. Sometimes it is so expertly done that I hardly realise I'm reading a scene from the past that is reappearing in a character's head. And how Petry moves from head to head with such clarity while also maintaining that horrible claustrophobia, I don't know. It really is a pleasure to read on one side and a difficult one on the other.


message 35: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Tebo | 68 comments Ken wrote: "Cindy wrote: "Sara wrote: "Interestingly, she was raised in a small town and had a much less discriminatory experience than this book depicts. When she went to New York to study, she taught in Harl..."

Ken, she was familiar with "Native Son," and according to an article in Yale Review. She resented the notion that anyone would think that, "The Street" was a "female counterpart" to "Native Son." Thus, she would not have appreciated my remark that this could be a response to Wright's portrayal of women in his novel. She felt that such a comparison somehow diminished her own work.

I've included a link to the article for anyone who is interested.

https://yalereview.yale.edu/nothing-n...


message 36: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrog) | 271 comments Cindy wrote: "Ken wrote: "Cindy wrote: "Sara wrote: "Interestingly, she was raised in a small town and had a much less discriminatory experience than this book depicts. When she went to New York to study, she ta..."

Thank you for this! I need to read "Native Son," and this will help spur me to that. Who knows when? Well, sooner than if I had not known.


message 37: by Darrin (new)

Darrin (darrinlettinga) | 153 comments I am a bit behind right now and only now spending more time reading into the next set of chapters. I just finished chapter 7 which I found quite poignant. In it, Lutie is riding home on the bus after being dropped off by Boots and she is thinking about her marriage to Jim.

It seems so hard sometimes when you are in the midst of life with another person to step back and look at the overall picture and identify and try to fix what is going wrong. Lutie's regret and realization of what caused their marriage to fall apart is one of those in-hindsight moments that has left her with a definite sense of loss.

For her part too, there is a better understanding of how Jim felt and why he did what he did. It does not excuse it but, I think, she at least understands that it is not all his fault and, like any marriage, it takes two to make it better.


message 38: by Darrin (new)

Darrin (darrinlettinga) | 153 comments Why do all these men think they have a say in Lutie’s life? I am kind of astounded by this.


message 39: by Yvonne (new)

Yvonne S (revyvonne) | 84 comments Just in the middle of chapter 12, so not quite finished with this second hunk of the book, but thought I'd take a look at the comments so far.

Want to name that I've started paying attention to every time something is said in the narrative about The Street itself. It's almost like it's yet another character in the book, with influence on each of the people depicted. I've highlighted some of those passages, and later will go back and look at how they add up.

Darrin asked "why do all these men think they have a say in Lutie's life?" Well, remember it's the '40s. So gendered behavior and expectations of men and women were (somewhat) different then, before the coming of the women's movement in the '60s and '70s and the #MeToo consciousness more recently. I think even now some men have this sense of entitlement that's both scary and disgusting to many women.

I'm definitely worried about our Lutie, hoping she won't end up victimized by Jones, Boots, and/or Junco. Worried about her son, too.

Oh that reminds me, too -- I was curious about that name Junco, which seems somewhat unusual. Googled what nationality is that name. Surprised to find, initially, that Google's opinion was Filipino. But then just now I asked Google again, and now Google says variously Spanish or Argentinian.


message 40: by Ken (new)

Ken | 676 comments Mod
I think even now some men have this sense of entitlement that's both scary and disgusting to many women.

I think there's a lot more of it than we think, even after the women's movement of the 60s and 70s (Helen Reddy just died, sadly). That's one of the most amazing things about this book to my mind, how it comes to us out of the past but doesn't look dated in the least, neither in racial or sexist ways.

The name Junto reminded me of Junta, which is a group of military idiots ruling a country after a takeover. You know. Banana Republics, like the USA.


message 41: by Darrin (new)

Darrin (darrinlettinga) | 153 comments I had just finished chapter 11 and was several pages into chapter 12 this morning when the thought above went through my mind. It is just surprising that someone can actually feel so entitled that they treat another person as their personal property that can be manipulated into a relationship. All three men, Jones, Boots and Junto are just different sides of the same coin.

Petry seems to be writing just as much about sexism as racism


message 42: by Diane (new)

Diane Barnes I agree, Darrin. And as a black woman, she was at the bottom of the food chain. It's interesting to note that Mrs. Hatch, who always dreamed of being small and pretty and finding a man who would want her, became a power in her own right BECAUSE she was unwanted. She was free to make her own way, and used men's desires to make a living.


message 43: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) Excellent point about Mrs. Hedges, Diane. As it often is in life, however, both women want what they do not have. Hedges wants to be desirable and Lutie wants to be independent.


message 44: by Ken (new)

Ken | 676 comments Mod
I got the impression that Mrs. Hedges was satisfied with her life, that she was "Lord of her realm" at that window, being in charge of all those women and taking in all that money.


message 45: by Ginny (new)

Ginny (burmisgal) | 39 comments Cindy wrote: "It's also interesting to note that Richard Wright's novel, "Native Son," received far more recognition than Petry's novel which was somehow forgotten. .."

Tayari Jones, in her introduction to my Kindle edition, says, "A professor now myself, I understand that Dr. Gayles assigned Native Son before the The Street not because some critics considered The Street to be a women’s version of Native Son, but because after meeting Lutie Johnson in all of her riveting complexity, we would not have had patience for Native Son’s violent erasure of black women’s lives."

I have never read Native Son, and now I probably never will. I am getting old, and have read far too many books without real women characters.


message 46: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Tebo | 68 comments Ginny, I probably never would have read, "Native Son," had it not been required reading when I was in college. I would have preferred to read Petry's novel. This group was the first time I had ever heard of Ann Petry.


message 47: by Sue (new)

Sue | 164 comments Ginny, I haven’t read Native Son yet, which I have always considered a bad oversight. Now, having read Petry, I think I agree with Cindy and I’m no longer concerned about Native Son.


message 48: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 241 comments Mod
Ginny, what a great point about the treatment of women. I haven't read Native Son yet and I appreciate the comment because I too am at the age where I have to discriminate!


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