Petry's View Of Victimization In 'The Street'
In The Street, by Ann Petry, Lutie and her son Bub, as well as most of the characters, are clearly portrayed as victims. One is ultimately led to believe that their victimization and the barriers they face are because of race. Race is clearly the main obstacle for Lutie and Bub. It is what holds them back from leaving “the street”. Born into prejudice, they are basically prescribed a future. The three characters which best represent the victimization of African-Americans and women are Bub, Lutie, and Min. The main obstacle facing Lutie is obviously the color of her skin. This prevented her from being able to advance the way she wanted to. The fact that Lutie is a woman contributes to her struggle even further. Women have to deal with male dominance and being victimized by men, in addition to being a minority. Both Lutie and Min try to break free these constraints, but ultimately fail because the task lies deeper than within themselves. This story is a perfect example of the struggles African-Americans, and in particular, women, have to endure, and a perfect illustration of the vicious cycle that keeps them unable to achieve the lives that they wanted and worked so hard for. There was a force that was keeping African-Americans on the street, and according to Ann Petry's views, it was the system in which they were living. Lutie is faced with being a single parent. She must provide child care as well as earn money to keep her and her son alive. Her life is a double edged sword, because she needs to be at home and working at the same time: an impossible task. Because of these two factors and the invisible barriers they pose, it is impossible for Lutie to achieve the life she desires for herself and Bub.
In the beginning of the story, Lutie was forced to take action and support her family because Jim could not find a job. She left her family and home and sent all her earnings to support them. In that time, it was hard enough for a woman to get a job, let alone an African-American woman. Petry contests that the most available job to them, was being a maid. Lutie was able to get a job working for the Chandlers. The portrayal of the Chandlers was a clear illustration of the racial divides at the time. Lutie was awestruck when she saw the lifestyle that they led. The luxuries they had would never be accessible to someone like Lutie. Although she admires their lifestyle, she loathes the impact money has on them. When Jonathan Chandler killed himself, it was then she realized that money was the only thing that this family had. She was interested in the way which money transformed a suicide she had seen committed from start to finish in front of her very eyes into an accident with a gun(Petry 54). It was then that she began to despise the family.
The fact that African-Americans were dependent on whites for employment made it hard for them to ever be on the same level. They were dependent on the white race essentially, to live. The increasing dependence made it more difficult to ever overcome the dominance. The knowledge of this is what angers Lutie. Mom, why do white people want colored people shining shoes?(Petry 71). Deep down, she knew that no matter how hard she worked, she would never live the way they did. But she did not want the racist mind to bring her down. She began to blame the white race for the hardships she was enduring. I don’t know, Bub, she said finally. But its for the same reason we can’t live anywhere else but in places like this...(Petry 72). She wanted to escape the street, and made a great effort. ...They’d never catch her in their dirt trap...She’d fight her way out(Petry74). But later we learn that this resolve is to no avail.
Lutie wanted Bub to have a better life and rise above the street. She worked very hard to provide this for him. She could do it, too- bring him up so that