The American Dream?
I did my media journal on a book called "The Street" by Ann Petry. It is about a black women who is trying to work and handle the pressures of being a single mother. This women, Lutie, has race, class, AND gender working against her, and this book exposes the discrimination she faces in each of these aspects.
One of the focuses of this book is that of the "American Dream," the idea that, in America, if you work hard enough, you can do whatever you want to do. Unfortunately, this is not reality for many Americans. At the start of the story, Lutie is working for a wealthy white family who engrain the idea of the American dream into her head, and she becomes obsessed with it. Lutie moves her son into an apartment and begins to plan how she is going to save money and slowly move up in life assuming she maintains a great work ethic. However, as the story progresses, it becomes clear that no matter how long Lutie works, no matter how many jobs she takes on, and no matter how well she tries to track her expenses, there is never any money left over to put into any kind of savings. Additionally, Lutie is exposed to very obvious sexism and almost raped twice. She lives in a horrible run-down apartment in a very poor part of Harlem. As a physical reminder of the inequality Lutie dealt with, the street she lived on symbolized the way of life she and many others had been predestined to endure for their entire lives. The street was a breeding area for filth, corruption, racism, sexism, economic stereotypes, and a general sense of hopelessness that was created by the culmination of all of these. Once people entered the street, they stood very little chance of ever leaving due to the cycle of poverty and desitution that held them back. Slowly, Lutie begins to realize the reality of her destiny and she becomes full of anger. She eventually kills a man who treats her like a prostitute and ends up worse than when she first set out to fulfill the American dream.
What I like about this book is how real it is. There is no sugar coating to the story- it is straight forward, depressing, blunt, and does not attempt to justify or explain racism, sexism, or class discrimination. I actually felt extremely guilty for my success in life after reading this book because although I am female, I am also white and of the upper class, and I really don't face anything even close to the discrimination that Lutie did. It made me sick realizing how hopeless her situation was and how nothing she could possibly do would turn that around. It is amazing to me that becoming successful in life seems so easy to us while people like Lutie have to struggle so hard for literally nothing in return. I highly recommend this book- it is well written and it is very precise and blunt. It has certainly changed my perspective on a lot of things.