Down These Mean Streets Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 40 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Down These Mean Streets.
This section contains 522 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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Down These Mean Streets Summary & Study Guide Description

Down These Mean Streets Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas.

John Thomas, known to family and friends as Piri, is a child during the Great Depression and grows up in New York. His mother is a light-skinned Puerto Rican and his father is very dark. Piri takes his dark coloring from his father and spends his life trying to balance the need to fit in with his need to acknowledge his African American background. From the time he is twelve, he knows his father treats him differently from his siblings and he attributes it to his own dark-skinned appearance.

Piri expends a lot of energy on his efforts to fit in. He puts himself in positions to fight in order to gain and maintain his reputation. When his family moves from Harlem to Long Island, Piri is caught up in a new culture but cannot seem to fit in. As soon as he is able, he leaves his family home in Long Island and returns to Harlem, largely living on the street. His two great loves are his mother and a girl named Trinedada, called Trina. Piri's heart is broken when his mother dies. He is soon estranged from his family, largely because of an argument with his father over a picture of his father's mistress.

Though Piri will get another girl pregnant while Trina is away, he claims to love her and they plan to marry. They even talk of the possibility of raising Piri's child as their own but that plan ends when Piri is shot during a robbery and is sentenced to prison. He spends six years there and the time in jail is made more bearable by the thought of Trina. Then Piri learns she has married someone else and when he runs into her, years later, he is struck by the thought that it is impossible to turn back the clock.

Piri begins dealing drugs in his neighborhood in order to feed his own budding drug habit. He says he kept a tight reign on his drugs, allowing himself to use heroin only once a week until the day he found himself shooting up seven times a day. He eventually joins three other young men and the four of them do a series of robberies. When Piri beats up an old man at a car dealership for four hundred and fifty dollars, they all seem to lose their drive and stop the robberies for awhile. They later start it up again though they plan to make one major score rather than a series of small-time thefts. They are not able to control the crowd in the large night club they hit and Piri shoots a police officer during the crime. He is shot himself and is given five to fifteen years in Sing Sing. He is later moved to Comstock State Prison where he serves the remainder of six years before his parole.

Piri turns his thoughts to religion while in jail. He briefly studies with some Muslims though he does not stay with that religion. He later prays a sincere prayer and begins going to church with his aunt after his release.

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This section contains 522 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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