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THE STREET: There was a cold November wind blowing through 116th Street...It lifted Lutie Johnson's hair away from the back of her that she felt suddenly naked, and bald.

NARRATOR: Lutie Johnson, the heroine of Ann Petry's THE STREET, is someone who resides on the margins of American society.

THE STREET: She shivered as the cold fingers of the wind touched the back of her neck, explored the sides of her head... It smacked against her ears as though it were giving her a final, exasperated blow as proof of its displeasure in not being able to make her move on.

NARRATOR: Not unlike the Joad family, Lutie Johnson believes fervently in the Dream, in the promise that with hard work comes a better, more prosperous life.

ANDREW DELBANCO: Lutie is a woman of great beauty and great dignity. And she is an embodiment of the American virtues. She doesn't expect the world to give her anything on a platter. She expects to work for what she gets. She expects her child to, to behave and, and work hard in school. Shes a typical American.

What she discovers about herself, which is something of which she is almost unconscious at the beginning of the book, is by virtue of the fact that she is Black she's not regarded by most of the rest of the world as a typical American.

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The American Novel