the historical significance of The Brotherhood
Part I Historical Context Questions (Complete 2 out of 4) 30 points
(Respond to the following historical context questions in 4-5 sentences minimum. )
- Explain the historical significance of The Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters. Why is it important to connect this history to Petry’s novel?
- How does The Street act as a precursor to the classical civil rights era? In other words, what events/passages speak to an emerging politics of collective struggle and protest?
- What is the Double Victory Era? How is this history connected to Petry’s novel?
- How does Petry’s own biography evidence themes central to the novel (e.g. black women’s inability to have protection and privacy, the relationship between politics and art, a critique of capitalism)?
Part II. Character Identifications (Complete 4 out of 6) -40 points
Identify the character associated with your selected passage. Then briefly describe the context of the passage and its import to your understanding of the novel (things to address may include character’s background/ motivations, larger themes within the street, or historical/extra-literary context).Respond to the question in 4-5 sentences minimum.
- Balance Lutie Johnson. Weigh Lutie Johnson. Long legs and warm mouth. . . Not enough she didn’t weigh enough when she was balanced against a life of saying “yes sir” to every white bastard who had the price of a Pullman run. Not enough. One hundred Lutie Johnsons didn’t weigh enough.
- Looking out the window was good for her business, too. There were always lonesome, sad-looking girls just up from the South who were tired of going to high school, and who had seen too many movies and didn’t have the money to buy all the things they wanted.
- The creeping, silent thing that she had sensed in the theater, in the beauty parlor, was here in her living room. It was sitting on the lumpy studio couch. Before it had been formless, shapeless, a fluid moving mass-something disembodied that she couldn’t see only sense. Now as she stared at the couch, the thing took on form, substance. She could see what it was.
- She had to pause in the doorway to nerve herself for her entry; then, pressing a handkerchief with eau de Cologne tight against her nose, she would cross the room at a trot and fling the windows open. The stench quickly conquered the fresh cold air; besides the children insisted on wearing their coats because they were cold sitting under open windows… The sight of them sitting in their coats always forced her to close the windows, for the coats were shabbly, ragged, with gaping holes in the elbows.
- It was the first defiant gesture she had ever made. Up until now she had always accepted whatever happened to her without making any effort to avoid a situation or change one. During the years she had spent doing part-time domestic work she never raised any objection to the actions of cruelly indifferent employers. She had permitted herself to be saddled with whole family washes when the agency that had sent her on the job had specified just ‘personal pieces.’
- He had to stop thinking about it. And as he stood there, he could see all those other women who had lived with him. Of the whole lot only one had been young and she had left at the end of three days. The rest of them had been bony women past fifty, toothless women past fifty, big ones and little ones – all past fifty. At that, none of them stayed very long. Three months, six months, and then they were gone.
Part III Essay Question Complete 1 out of 2 (30 points)
Instructions: Please choose one essay option. Your essay will be graded on the following criteria: 1. An emerging thesis/central idea that directly responds to your selected question.2. Direct citation of The Street to support your ideas (aim for at least one citation in each of your paragraphs using MLA in-text citation style) 3. Clarity of language and argument 4. Minimum of three paragraphs with clear topic sentences and organized progression of ideas.
Essay Options 1 Naturalism & The Street
“Streets like the one she lived on were no accident. They were the North’s lynch mobs, she thought bitterly; the method the big ciites used to keep Negroes in their place…From the time she was born, she had been hemmed into an ever narrowing space, until now she was very nearly walled in and the wall had been built up brick by brick by eager white hands” (276).
It is evident that for Petry “the street” is not only a setting but also evidences the confrontation between African Americans and Northern environments. How does naturalism influence the content and form of The Street? In what ways is naturalism useful for explicating the impact of racism on The Street’s characters?
Essay Option 2- Gender, Race & The Street
Early in the novel Lutie overhears a conversation between Mrs. Chandler’s and her mother:
“Now I wonder if you’re being wise, dear. That girl is unusually attractive and men are weak. Besides, she’s colored and you know how they are–
Here she was highly respectable, married, mother of a small boy, and, in spite of all that, knowing all that, these people took one look at her and immediately got that now-I-wonder look. Apparently it was an automatic reaction of white people- if a girl was colored and fairly young, why, it stood to reason she had to be a prostitute”(36).
How does Mrs. Chandler’s statement anticipates themes and events within the novel? What are the implications and stakes of being “young, female, and colored” in The Street?