Ann Petry’s 1946 novel, The Street, shows how Lutie Johnson has a connection with the setting of an urban street. Throughout this passage, Petry establishes Lutie Johnson’s relationship to the urban setting through the use of imagery, by using phrases like “rattled the tops of garbage cans”. Petry uses personification, by saying “Fingering its way along the curb, the wind set the bits of paper to dancing high in the air, “. Petry also uses figurative language such as good diction, with “barrage of paper” and “grit stung their skins”.
Imagery is used very heavily throughout this passage. Petry says “rattled the tops of garbage cans” to show how strong the wind is, and to make the reader feel as if there is a rattling noise of metal on metal. She says “sucked window shades out through the top of opened windows and set them flapping back” to show that the wind was really powerful and changing; it was fluid. This gives the impression of the wind playing around with the people in the streets of this urban place. This wind later encounters Lutie, and all of these images start to make sense as it mercilessly drives her to find a warm room.
Personification is used to show the relationship between Lutie and the setting. By saying “Fingering its way along the curb, the wind set the bits of paper to dancing high in the air, “ Petry shows that the wind is moving across all of the people around it. It is trying to be as much of a nuisance as it can, by makes the streets dirtier, and by touching each person in a certain way. “She shivered as the cold fingers of the wind touched the back of her neck” shows that the wind is exposing everyone, and it is making people feel uncomfortable. The wind blowing through this less crowded city is unmasking everyone and making them feel like they need a safe place. This very wind that Lutie is trying to avoid quickly annoys her right before she finds a room to hide from it.
Petry also uses figurative language such as good diction, with “barrage of paper” and “grit stung their skins”. The barrage of paper really puts a picture in your head. You can almost see a tornado of paper being driven through the dirty streets. The grit flying into people’s faces makes them blind and hurt. “dark red stain like blood” tells you exactly the color that this rusted sign has, and it makes you feel a bit more afraid for the protagonist. “impossible angle on the rod that suspended it from the building” shows you just how precariously the sign was placed, and that the wind is so strong that it can makes even the impossible happen. This wind is so powerful that it has, in some ways, created this urban setting that Lutie is trying to navigate.
In conclusion, the wind is used in many different literary ways to show the connection between Lutie and the city she is in. The author uses very powerful techniques to put a picture in the readers’ heads of what this wind can do, and how it touches everyone. Petry truly establishes Lutie Johnson’s relationship to the urban setting through the use of such literary devices as imagery, personification, and figurative language, and makes the passage a pleasure to read.