MaIn Ideas In The Street By Ann Petry Essay

Spring Diagnostic Essay Rewrite

The behavior of weather not only characterizes a given setting, but also establishes where a character stands within the society of the story. This can be directly seen in The Street, by Ann Petry. Petry utilizes figurative language to portray Lutie’s state of vulnerability which conveys Johnson’s unpleasant, abusive relationship with the urban setting, in which Johnson is victimized .This reflects Petry’s observation that new, unfamiliar environments are often unwelcoming and possess dictatorial powers over the emotions and lives of newcomers.

Lutie Johnson’s vulnerable state, depicted through Petry’s juxtaposition of her differing perspectives, conveys her unpleasant relationship with the urban setting. This can be seen through the juxtaposition presented by Petry when describing Johnson’s perspective. As Johnson goes about her day in the city, “the wind lifted Lutie Johnson’s hair away from the back of her head so that she felt suddenly naked and bald, for her hair had been resting softly and warmly against her skin” (35-38). The original state of her hair, “resting softly and warmly”, dramatically contrasts the new state Johnson experiences of being, “naked and bald”. Petry juxtaposes these two states Johnson experiences to present the relationship that Johnson has with the urban setting, that once in the urban setting, she becomes extremely vulnerable and stripped of her identity. By being naked, without the figurative and literal presence of clothes to protect her, or in this case, hair, she is defenseless to the judgement and attacks of others. All her flaws and insecurities are figuratively unconcealed without the presence of physical and figurative protection, underscoring her vulnerable state. Her baldness reflects her loss of identity in an urban setting, that her identity as female has been stripped of her. By convention, she is now neither specifically male nor female; she is without a distinct identity. Petry’s juxtaposition of Johnson’s state prior to the invasive wind and after highlights her vulnerability. This portrayal conveys her unpleasant relationship with the urban setting; it is a place that takes away both her identity and strength .

Petry’s selection of detail that singles out Johnson depicting her state of vulnerability, which further conveys her poor, mildly abusive relationship with the urban setting. Throughout the passage, Petry constantly describes the abusive nature of the wind. The wind is not only guilty of, “violent assault(s)” upon, “a few hurried pedestrians”, but also setting , “the bits of paper to dancing high in the air so that a barrage of paper swirled into the faces of the people on the street”. Furthermore, the wind, “found all the dirt and dust and grime on the sidewalk and lifted it up so that the dirt got into their eyes and blinded them”. Petry specifically decides to describe the range of actions the personified wind has been guilty of, and the harassment it inflicts upon the people in the city. In describing the harassment the wind inflicts, she constantly addresses the people as, “a few”, or “people”, and, “their”; in all cases the wind attacks people in groups. Contrastingly, Lutie Johnson is singled out to be attacked by the wind. The, “cold fingers of the wind touched the back of her neck”, and blew away, “her” eyelashes. This selection of detail portrays how the wind specifically picks out Johnson to harass, instead of harassing her while she is among a group of people. Being a newcomer to the urban setting, she would not have other city-dwellers to rely on to take some of the torment off her shoulders. This emphasizes how vulnerable Johnson truly is; even the weather in the urban setting exploits her vulnerability from different and isolated from others. Through this selection of detail, Petry not only conveys Johnson’s poor, slightly abusive relationship she has with the urban setting, but also how the new environment possesses dictatorial powers over her life. The wind can do whatever it desires to make Johnson uncomfortable, and because she is in a new setting, she does not have others to blend in with to somewhat alleviate the harassment she experiences. Her new environment is not only unwelcoming, but mildly abusive, singling her out to harass her and invoke feelings of discomfort. This thoughtful selection of detail works to convey Petry’s observation that new, unfamiliar environments, are often unwelcoming and have dictatorial powers over a person’s emotions and life.

Johnson’s vulnerable state can be concluded through observing Petry’s personification of the weather, which ultimately conveys her unpleasant, moderately abusive relationship to the urban setting. The wind is personified when Johnson attempts to read a sign that informs her of how many rooms a housing location is able to provide her. She notes that, “it was three rooms. The wind held it still for an instant in front of her and then swooped it away until it was standing at an impossible angle on the rod” (56-58). The wind is manipulative and has complete power over Johnson’s ability to inform herself of the number of rooms that is offered at the housing location. It completely hinders her ability to read the sign, as the personified the wind, “held it”, and then, “swooped it away”. The wind is portrayed almost as a human character, who interferes with Johnson’s life, apathetic of how it inconveniences her. This shows the significant amount of power the wind possesses over Johnson’s life, and how the wind seems to abuse this figurative power. This event, where the wind mindlessly torments Johnson in her attempt to read a sign, reflects her unpleasant, moderately abusive relationship to the urban setting. Furthermore, Johnson’s attempt of trying to find rooming conveys that she is a newcomer to the urban setting, without a place to say. The wind’s torment and Johnson’s poor relationship with the urban setting expresses Petry’s perspective that new, unfamiliar environments are often unwelcoming. Furthermore, they can have a dictatorial influence on people’s live. This can be seen through how the wind directly hinders Johnson’s pursuit of housing by making it difficult for her to read the sign. It can manipulate and impact her attempts to obtain the most basic human necessity: shelter.

Johnson’s vulnerable state, depicted through Petry’s selection of detail, juxtaposition of Johnson’s perspective, and personification of the wind, conveys Johnson’s unpleasant, mildly abusive relationship with the urban setting. This ultimately highlights Petry’s conclusion that new, unfamiliar environments tend to be unwelcoming and have dictatorial powers over the emotions and lives of newcomers. This understanding can allow individuals to mentally prepare and understand the challenges they may encounter when adjusting to a new environment. This challenge can then be approached as an opportunity to build resilience and tolerance in the face of adversity- an opportunity to build character in the face of an unfortunate reality.

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