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Personification is a literary technique that gives human qualities to inanimate objects. Through personification, the author makes nonliving or inanimate objects to perform the roles of human beings. Personification not only gives life to nonliving things, but allows non-human things like animals to behave and act like a human being. In chapter one of The Street, Petry Ann personifies the “cold November wind” by describing the wind’s actions as if they were carried out by a human being. For instance, the wind tosses up objects and drives men from the street, as it has a will of its own to do as it pleased. The author describes the wind in a manner suggesting it does things consciously, with purpose and intent.
The actions of the wind foreshadow the rest of the novel by suggesting the struggles that the character will have to endure to achieve their ambitions. In addition, the wind symbolizes the obstacles and challenges that will prevent them from realizing their goals. For instance Lutie Johnson, the main character, struggles to raise and save money to enable her leave the street where she lives. However, she encounters challenges every step of the way, such as the men who want to exploit her sexually before they could extend any help. Examples include Boots Smith who wants to have sex with her before passing her on to Junto, who also intends to have sex with her before giving her the money she needs for a lawyer, to represent her son, Bub.
Chapter three is set on a subway, a butcher’s shop and an apartment on 11th street. The setting symbolizes the limited opportunities that the characters have to a better life. The subway creates the image of overcrowding, tight space, and lack of freedom to move freely. Subways are constructed underground, which portrays the burdens under which the characters’ lives have been buried. Lutie Johnson has to fight her way out of poverty, but the burdens she has to deal with are too much for her. Moreover, the darkness common in underground tunnels suggests a bleak future for the characters. For instance, Lutie thinks that the street will keep her son from finishing school, “that it may do worse than that and get him into some kind of trouble that will land him in reform school because you can't be home to look out for him because you have to work” (Petry 69). It also foreshadows Lutie’s fate; she kills Boots Smith and has to run away, leaving her son behind. Her future is hopeless because she is a murderer running away from the law. Similarly, the butcher sells stale meat, but the customers have no option since there are no alternatives. This symbolizes the lack of better alternative jobs to improve their lives. Consequently, men and women keep walking along the street because they have nothing better to do. Likewise, the apartments are crowded and small, suggesting lack of more space/opportunities.
Jones is a Super at the apartment where Lutie stays, who at some point worked as a Navy officer. Additionally, Jones also worked as a night watchman. One of the key values that Jones portrays is lust. This is indicated by his open lust for Lutie who was a single parent. He feels that he is in deep love with Lutie even without her consent. He lusts for Lutie each time he sets his eyes on her and feels that he could have her. More so, he is a very lonely man. Jones tries to seek a companion, but does not succeed in his mission. This implies that he leads a lonely life without anyone to support him effectively in his life according to his wishes. This drives him into lustful thoughts about Lutie. The key thing that Jones reveals that other characters do not do is continuous engagement in evil actions. He engages in numerous evil actions, which other characters perceive could be because of his work as a night watchman.
Junto is an old man who owns “Junto Bar and Grill” that offers services to residents both in the summer, and in the winter. Accommodativeness is one of the key values exhibited by Junto as a character. He welcomed everyone at his “Bar and Grill”. The “Junto Bar and Grill” was open to everyone ranging from the old to the young. He did not discriminate against any of the groups in society as he offered quality services for all the groups that came to have fun at “Junto Bar and Grills”. Another value exhibited by Junto is the love of entertainment. Junto sets up a Bar and Grill to ensure people meet and have fun together. This is indicative of his passion for entertainment and happiness in peoples’ lives. Junto’s revelation about the novel world that is not common among other characters is that there can be a harmonized meeting ground for all races, ages, and gender in society.
Boots Smith is a rich man who owns a dance band. Mr. Boots is a mean person. He is a rich, but mean person who prefers pursuing his own interests. He is a selfish man who priorities what is good for him first before putting into consideration the needs of other people. For instance, he tries to utilize Lutie's singing talent to his own benefit. He does not want to recruit her officially because of the pursuit of self-interests. Boots is also an opportunist. This is depicted when he tries to kiss Lutie inside the car after discovering that she was a single woman. He takes the opportunity pretending that he was going to offer her a better deal to advance her singing career. The thing that he reveals in the novel’s world that other characters do not reveal is the utilization of one’s high status in society, to pursue selfish interests.
Miss Rinner is a schoolteacher in Harlem. Her character develops the theme of race effectively in the novel. For instance, her hatred of the odor in the school she teaches develops the theme of race in the novel because it indicates her heightened racial feelings toward children at the school. She also asserts that she hates the fried smell of children at the school. This develops the theme of race by indicating her racial hatred toward black children. The key idea, about race that develops her characterization is that people from the black racial orientation stink. She does not even trust her own students in Harlem and feels she should be transferred immediately.
In chapter 18, the novel develops the theme of lust. Junato and Boots exhibit lustful feelings toward Lutie who was a single parent. Junto calls Lutie and informs her that he has an important visitor whom she must meet. The visitor in this case was Boots who ultimately requests Junto to move out and come out later. He tries to force Lutie into a sexual engagement by kissing and touching her. He also promises Junto that he would have his own share later on hence emphasizing the theme of lust. This ends tragically when Lutie hits Boots to death and escapes. The theme of lust is significant in the development of the novel’s overall plot. The theme is significant because it brings out the different types of divisions and feelings existing in society such as racial distinctions, and perspectives that men hold toward women in society. This theme is also significant to the overall plot because it promotes effective understanding of the entire story in connection to racial feelings among different characters.