The Street by Robert Pinsky: Summary and Critical Analysis

The poem The Street by Robert Pinsky presents the street as a universal experimenter and observer, which functions as an observer of the luxury of rich people and suffering of poor people throughout the history. The street in its observation is neutral and disinterested. It does not take side of any of the rich or the poor.

Robert Pinsky (Born in 1940)

The poet brings a reference from past to focus on the kind of experience the street undergoes. He narrates about the procession of the dead child of an emperor. The poor carpenters work the whole night for the preparation of the procession. The poet juxtaposes the suffering of poor people to the luxury of rich people even after the death. The child is beautified and put in a luxurious white coffin. The poet returns to his Rockwell Avenue that represents the present time. The poet across the street on Rockwell Avenue observes the same luxury of rich people and never ending suffering of poor people.

“Troubles”, “fights”, “sickness” are for poor people and likewise “underwear” or “dirty pajamas” are other images to show the poverty of the poor people that are not for fully dressed rich people. The poet also narrates the event through the eighth stanza, where a rich man is eloping with the wife of a poor man in his “car”. All the cars are like dragon for this poor man and throw his shoes to the car. The street is storing all these events in the memory but its observation is only passive.

The poet towards the end of the poem seems to be obsessed with the idea of death. In his description of death it is represented as neutral, indifferent or disinterested. All rich or poor, white or black are equal in the eye of death. There is neither superior nor inferior, morality is inevitable. Ultimately we can see this poem is generally about the life and death which are the parts of the street. It is a journey from life to death; in between we face or experience different kinds of things. All civilizations, power makers, rulers, ruled are toys in front of the death. “The Street” is the medium through which we experience all the things.

In this poem neutrality of death is associated to the neutrality of the street. Death is a great equalizer force that equates both poor and rich, black and white. It is observing man’s exploitation upon man from the past to the present and conveys the message. Though, civilization and the mode of the system develops or changes, the exploitation upon poor never changes, and ultimately poor remains poor forever because of the capitalistic mode of operation.

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Sharma, Kedar N. "The Street by Robert Pinsky: Summary and Critical Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 17 Nov. 2013,

Related Topic

Robert Pinsky: Biography