“There was a cold November wind blowing through 116th Street.” You’re alone in an unfamiliar, grimy and bitter city, just looking for a place to spend the night. The Street by Ann Petry is a novel about a woman, Lutie Johnson, who finds herself in this situation. The relationship between Lutie Johnson and the urban setting is established by the use of personification, imagery and characterization, in The Street by Ann Petry.
In her novel, Petry uses personification in the interest of establishing a relationship between the setting and Lutie Johnson. At the end of the third paragraph, the wind is described ‘assaulting’ people on the street, “the wind grabbed their hats, pried their scarves from around their necks, stuck its fingers inside their coat collars, blew their coats away from their bodies.” (Lines 31-34) Personifying the wind as having “fingers” is enough to create a tense and eerie tone. The wind is described negatively by its actions towards pedestrians further, as driving people off the streets and doing “everything it could to discourage the people walking along the street.” (Lines 21-22) By giving the setting human-like qualities, it makes it easier for the reader compare it with Lutie, and find the relationship between the two.
In The Street, Petry uses imagery as a tool to establish a relationship between the setting and Lutie. Most of the imagery included in the novel, such as, “the dirt got into their noses, making it hard to breathe,” reveals more about the hostile and nearly uninhabitable environment. (Line 24) While some imagery, “she felt suddenly naked and bald, for her hair had been resting softly and warmly on the back of her neck,” gives us hints about how Lutie feels in this new setting. (Lines 36-38) Each piece of imagery that Petry chooses to include in her novel reveals a little bit more about the relationship between Lutie and the setting.
Petry descriptively characterizes in her novel, in order to establish a relationship between the setting and the main character, Lutie. The first 34 lines of the novel are mainly focused on describing the environment. Throughout these lines, Petry uses words like “dirt and dust and grime,” to negatively characterize the setting and make it seem unappealing to the reader. (Lines 22-23) Along with this, the setting is also characterized as “cold” and harsh, by the actions of the wind, “violent assault.” (Line 9) However, juxtaposed, is Lutie Johnson, whom when first introduced, is characterized by words like “softly and warmly.” (Line 37) The characterization and contrast of the setting and Lutie shows the reader a lot about their relationship.
In order to establish this complex relationship between Lutie and the urban setting, Petry employs personification, imagery and characterization. Through the combined use of these devices and others, Petry is able to make the reader relate to Lutie in this new, harsh and confusing environment.