Down These Mean Streets Short Essay - Answer Key

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1. Describe Piri's upbringing.

John Thomas, known to family and friends as Piri, grows up in New York during the Great Depression. His mother is a light-skinned Puerto Rican and his father is a dark-skinned Cuban. Piri is dark like his father and consequently has to spend his childhood trying to balance the need to fit in with a need to acknowledge his background.

2. Why does Piri decide to return home instead of running away?

As he runs away, Piri wishes he had left during the daylight hours rather than at night. He considers that his father is at work and will not even be worried. However his mother will be at home worried sick. With his mother in mind, Piri returns home.

3. Describe the fight between Piri and Rocky in the opening section.

During the fight, Rocky hits Piri in the face with a handful of crumbled asphalt, causing Piri to go temporarily blind. Worried they have gone too far, Rocky and his friends lead Piri home.

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