Street of Riches

by Gabrielle Roy

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 205

The eighteen stories contained in this text are narrated by a girl named Christine, the youngest child of her family. Christine observes her family, especially her mother and father and her older sisters, Agnes and Alicia, though she does not always completely understand what they are feeling since she is so young when the book begins. She is very innocent and approaches life with wonder, and she experiences a lot at a young age. Her mother seems to feel a deep-seated lack of fulfillment with her life; though she would never trade her family, she longs to travel and see more of the country. Her father, who works for the government to settle immigrant groups that arrive in Canada, often seems to be depressed, and the narrator is always sort of attempting to understand him and see the person and the love inside him. The complex feelings of both the child, Christine, as well as her parents are represented so honestly and in such a nuanced and poignant way that the reader seems to relate to them all. As Christine grows up, through the stories, we see her developing her own identity as a budding writer as well as navigating the challenges of family life.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 434

Street of Riches is a semiautobiographical work, evoking childhood memories and experiences through a veil of fiction. The original title, which refers to Deschambault Street in Saint-Boniface, Roy’s birthplace, serves to anchor the eighteen stories forming the work in a psychological topography traveled from early childhood to adolescence by the main character, Christine, whose narrative focus is continued in The Road Past Altamont.

For Roy, childhood is undeniably a magical time, filled with curiosity, discovery, hope, and nurturing. It is also the period to which adults return, following the cycle of life, which Christine herself comes to experience. It represents potential, growth, and learning, all of which define in later years the sensibilities and values of Roy’s adult protagonist. The use of the first-person narrative reinforces the quest for truth and knowledge. “Know thyself”: This is indeed what the young Christine attempts through interactions with her own inner being, with family members, as well as other individuals who loom large in her life.

In such pieces as “Petite Misère” (“Little Miss Misery”), “Mon Chapeau rose” (“My Pink Hat”), “Ma Coqueluche” (“My Whooping Cough”), and “Il s’en va gagner notre vie” (“To Earn My Living”) Christine poignantly retraces her personal development from the extremely sensitive little girl, who, nicknamed “Little Miss Misery” by her father, flees to the attic to escape this brutal name, to the young woman, heedful of the call to write, but who begins a teaching career to support herself and her mother. The wide-eyed curiosity that characterizes Christine’s perception is a constant in this work. Roy captures admirably well and with a realism that astounds the reader the reactions, words, and inner thoughts of this delightful character.

“Les Bijoux” (“The Jewels”) reinforces the search for identity associated with the evolution of the young girl to the mature woman. Aged fifteen in this story, Christine succumbs to the dazzling attraction of costume jewelry and other “adult” accoutrements (as Florentine does in The Tin Flute) before realizing the artificial nature of such decorations. Shedding this role, Christine contemplates leaving for Africa to nurse the lepers. Her values and personality are in metamorphosis, her identity not yet formed, but through her evolution Christine is unwavering in her apprenticeship of life, a process that affects her in permanent ways to be communicated in The Road Past Altamont. Despite the economic hardships evoked in Street of Riches, Christine and her family do enjoy, indeed, the richness of imagination, the closeness of family life, and a present that will be forever active in the creative process of the mature Christine, the writer.

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