Themes and Meanings
Ann Petry’s character Lutie Johnson is one of the most independent and self-reliant African American women in fiction. Petry’s naturalist and psychological portrait of Lutie Johnson is closely and intensely drawn, and it is this facet of the novel that to an important degree renders the novel so remarkable. Lutie’s psychological life is detailed and sustained to a point virtually unique in fiction. From Lutie’s perspective, the exigencies of race in America are compounded and intensified by those of gender. One is unable to forget that the issue of race is profoundly transformed when considered in tandem with the issue of gender. Moreover, one understands that the two must be considered together in order to understand fully the dynamics of African American presence in America. Similarly, Lutie Johnson’s determination and perseverance, her sense of pursuing and controlling her own destiny, provide a portrait of an African American woman that is relatively rare in the African American literary tradition up to the time of the novel’s publication.
In addition to the powerful consideration of gender and intense psychological realism that Petry brings to African American fiction, her manipulation of narrative structure and chronological sequencing bears noting. As much as she relies on the sequential action of traditional plot construction, Petry deviates from this traditional construction. That is, rather than moving forward in time, much of the...
(The entire section is 591 words.)