To Sir With Love by E.R Braithwaite - Exploring Themes - Racism

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To Sir With Love by E.R Braithwaite - Essay

Q: Explore the theme of racism in the novel.

A: To Sir With Love, is a testimony, written by E.R Braithwaite. A book which centers on a teacher, who takes his occupation as a “sheer reality”, depicts his struggles on developing a relationship with his rude, disobedient and hostile students. In fact, it is necessarily not the fault of the students, as they expected Braithwaite to be inept, as his predecessors.

The theme of racism is prevalent in the novel. The first aspect of racism is explicit prejudice. The prejudice can be depicted through the scene which took place on the bus, from Aldgate to Greenslade. The woman’s refusal to sit with Braithwaite shows the seriousness and intensity of the problem of racism, in the 1950s. Not all of the Londoners were racial towards Braithwaite or all the coloured people, as it could be seen in the conductor’s supportiveness of Braithwaite and his ever growing irritation of the lady, who continued to show expressions of ignorance towards the situation. Through Braithwaite’s soliloquy, it implicitly implies that the higher social class were more corrupted by society and discourteous to the coloured people than the middle or the lower social class. This can be shown through the sentences: “There were a part of the world’s greatest cities and at the same time common as hayseeds” and “courteous deference to a slim, smartly dressed woman” (shows she could afford money to buy alluring clothes).

Another aspect of racism prevalent in the novel is the use of language, used as a powerful weapon to express racism. This can be evident through the citations which were “black bastard” and “blackie teacher” were intended to be provoking. Denham, who cited the slur: “black bastard” was only said to gain attention from his peers and by standing up to the teacher, it would give him the characteristics of a leader; an individual who was brave and stood up for what he believed in. The following sentence: “He looked like he wanted a response, shows that the reasoning for his cite, was not for true intentionality or taunt, but to make the atmosphere of the class, heated, and to make Braithwaite resign from his occupation, and “gird up his loins”, as Weston described it.

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Implicit acts of racism can be noted through two significant events and incidents – one being the event at Poisson D’Or and the other being the job interview for Braithwaite, as an engineer. In the restaurant incident, the mistreatment of Braithwaite, by the waiter dropping soup, and not on Gillian (who was white-skinned) and the appearance of a smirk, across the waiter’s mouth, shows the disrespect and intentionality of the act. The gauntlet of eyes, as Braithwaite described it, implies that the customers saw the incident, but refused to stand up to the waiter – who had obviously attempted a ...

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