The catastrophe at the end of The Street is directly caused by Jones, the apartment building Super. Jones has wanted a relationship with Lutie from the start, has attempted to rape her, and then finally has carried out a plan to get to Lutie through her son, Bub. All along he's been playing up to Bub, making himself look like a kindly uncle or father-figure, in order to involve him in a criminal scheme, which turns out to be the theft of the apartment residents' mail.
Lutie has found it impossible simply to lead an independent life raising her son. Both Boots, the musician at the nightclub where she sings, and Junto, the owner of the club, form an incipient love triangle with her. It appears at first that Lutie could fall in love with Boots, but Boots is being manipulated by Junto, who is insisting, because of his own interest in Lutie, that Boots stay away from her.
The difficulties of a single mother at that time (and now as well), especially if she is African American, form the central theme of The Street. All three major male characters—Jones, Boots, and Junto—are dangerous, unscrupulous men who want to exploit Lutie's vulnerability and who are unwilling or unable to see her as more than a mere object to be taken advantage of. Of the three Jones is the worst, with no redeeming qualities whatever. Even at her first visit to the apartment, Lutie knows there's something wrong with him. He makes her walk ahead of him, and as he points his flashlight down at his feet, she reflects,
his silent waiting and his incredible height appalled her.
Once Jones contrives to have Lutie's son arrested and placed in Juvenile Hall, Lutie has nowhere to turn but to the other two men, Boots and Junto. But she knows these men will offer her the assistance she needs for her son only if she becomes the girlfriend of one, or both, of them. When Boots tries to rape her, she fights back and kills him and then has no choice but to flee from New York, not knowing what the fate of her son, still incarcerated, will be.