Explore how Harper Lee presents the theme of racism in one part of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird.You must use examples of the language the writer uses to support your ideas.

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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I have always found the actions of newspaper editor B. B. Underwood among the most interesting in the novel. Underwood, who was named after one of the Confederacy's most incompetent Civil War generals (Braxton Bragg) by his "father in a fey fit of humor," is forced to go through life living down his name. Atticus claims that he is a "slow steady drinker(s)," who absolutely

"... despises Negroes, won't have one near him."

Yet, when Atticus is confronted by the lynch mob, Underwood silently stands guard from his perch above the jail in The Maycomb Tribune office with a shotgun (and probably his "ever-present gallon jug of cherry wine") in his hand. He is ready to defend Atticus--and the accused black rapist, Tom Robinson--by force, if necessary. After Tom's death, Underwood delivers an impassioned editorial, decrying Tom's murder and comparing it to the "senseless slaughter of songbirds." Unlike many of Maycomb's citizens (such as the ladies of the Missionary Circle who pretend to be concerned about the plight of the African Mrunas but not the Negroes of Maycomb), Underwood does not disquise his racist attitudes; however, he does not allow them to take precedence over his journalistic objectivity either; and, as Scout points out,

Mr. Underwood simply figured it was a sin to kill cripples, be they standing, sitting or escaping...

--or be they black or white. Underwood is a unique character in TKAM: a man who hates black men because of their color, but one who uses both a gun and a pen to defend them when he feels it's necessary.


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