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Discuss Harper Lee's portrayal of the black community in To Kill A Mockingbird

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Introduction

Discuss Harper Lee's portrayal of the black community in To Kill A Mockingbird To Kill A Mockingbird is set in the nineteen thirties, a time when racism was very common and, in America, the Ku Klux Klan were operating, having been reactivated in nineteen fifteen. At that time, despite their loss of the civil war and acceptance (though unwilling) of the Thirteenth Amendment, the Southern states were continuing to practice racism. Many Southern landowners were determined to keep cheap black labour. However, they were not the worst off, as the Southern whites, who were at the bottom of the heap, were threatened by the rising place of black people and became the least respected of people. In the novel, the black community is portrayed very positively, as they are shown as reacting in an absolutely non-violent way to the racist abuse that they suffer, behaving passively and even still helping white people. In this way, they are portrayed as 'heroes'. Despite some dispute over just how realistic this view was, this was undoubtedly Harper Lee's intention as to what we are meant to think of the black community. The novel is about a white man defending a black man in court, something considered "wrong" at the time and something that would have made the lawyer a public enemy. ...read more.

Middle

In the novel, the black community is always portrayed very well, and this means that the reader is mortified when they read about the racism which they encounter. A lot of racism is shown through the novel, for example the segregation of the different races. The blacks have to use a separate church and in the courtroom there is an area for black people only. Also, there are numerous racist remarks and derogatory comments made throughout, such as "nigger" and "sulky darkies". The black community are constantly being abused by the whites verbally. As well as that, Aunt Alexandra wants for Calpurnia to be sacked because she is black, with no regard as to how good at her good and versatile she is. Also we see that when Mr. Radley thinks a black man is in his garden, he immediately starts shooting, whereas if it had been a white man, he would have questioned them before taking action. It is also made evident that a fair trial is impossible for a black man, as in Tom's case, Mr. Gilmer, and Bob and Mayella Ewell are all racist towards him, with only Atticus fighting for him. Another example of one person shedding good light on the whole black community is Tom Robinson. ...read more.

Conclusion

They are always respectful to white people; even though Mr. Gilmer always calls him "boy" in the trial, Tom still calls him "sir". The narrative perspective of the novel highlights the injustice of racism, as Scout is always so upset by the goings on in the courtroom, and Atticus says that "only the children weep" as they have yet to understand the racist mentality of their society. Also Dolphus Raymond and Atticus show Harper Lee's contempt for racism. Dolphus Raymond because he tells Dill to "cry about the hell white people give coloured folks" and says "They could never, never understand that I live like I do because that's the way I want to live." Also Atticus' attitude towards racist men, saying that a white man is "trash" for cheating a black man. These both sum up the way Harper Lee felt about the racism in the Deep South. In conclusion, though it could be said that the blacks in the novel are shown as needing a white hero to save them, Harper Lee in fact makes them heroes by making them so dignified and proud in the face of racism. The black community gain our admiration through the novel and are portrayed very positively, so the racist attitude of the people of Maycomb is shown badly, and the racists as the enemies of the heroes, Atticus and the black people. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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5 star(s)

This is an excellent essay. It remains focused on the question throughout and uses appropriate and well selected quotes to support statements. Shows a knowledge and understanding of the novel and its themes and is able to move confidently around the novel and make connections.

Marked by teacher Katie Dixon 29/04/2012

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