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How does Harper Lee show attitudes towards race in the passage in chapter 12 in To Kill...

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pravnj | Elementary School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 3, 2012 at 12:33 PM via web

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How does Harper Lee show attitudes towards race in the passage in chapter 12 in To Kill a Mockingbird?

The passage starts from "The churchyard was brick hard clay ..." and ends with "we're mighty glad to have you all"

Thank you for all your help appreciate it! :D

 

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 6, 2012 at 4:00 PM (Answer #1)

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Lee demonstrates a wider reach for racism in this chapter.  For the first time, we see things from the perspective of the black community.  They are secluded by the whites, and as a result they are suspicious of whites.

When Calpurnia brings the young Finch children to church with her, she is greeted with resistance by some and acceptance by others.  Lula is an example of reverse discrimination, in a way.  She does not accept white children in her church.

"You ain't got no business bringin' white chillun here- they got their church, we got our'n. It is our church, ain't it, Miss Cal?" (ch 12)

However, if we look more deeply we can understand Lula’s concerns.  The church is the one place they have to themselves.  It is a safe haven from racism.  As much as Cal loves the white children, she is not their equal in this society.  When Calpurnia says the children are her company, Lula doesn’t buy it.

"Yeah, an' I reckon you's comp'ny at the Finch house durin' the week." (ch 12)

There is also another layer going on here.  Calpurnia is more educated than many of the people in her church.    She and Zeebo can read, because she taught him, but almost no one else can.  When Cal goes to her church, she has to use code-switching.

Again I thought her voice strange: she was talking like the rest of them. (ch 12)

Calpurnia is on the verge of not belonging with her own people, because they might think she is putting on airs.  So although she talks like a white person when she is amongst whites, she talks like a black person when she is around blacks.  This way she avoids being called snobbish.

 

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sunshine250495 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted November 6, 2012 at 8:22 AM (Answer #2)

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In the passage Harper Lee shows that prejudice goes two ways. Some critics have criticised Lee's approach towards blacks as victims and the whites as oppressors. But in this passage Lee shows that racial hatred is equivocal in both races. Lula looks upon white men and children with the same contempt and disdain that they show towards her. She feels it to be unfair that Jem and Scout who belonged to the white community should be allowed to enter the coloured church while she is forbidden from the white church. Lula believes in an 'eye for a eye' or 'tit for tat' attitude. However Calpurnia shows the hollowness of racial prejudice when she says:

It's the same God, ain't it?

Lee points out how irrational it is to seperate black and white men and women even though they are children of the same God and pray to the same deity. In the same chapter we see Calpurnia speaking with a coloured accent or what Scout calls "nigger-talk" even though she is capable of much refined speech because she fears being outcast from her community if she starts putting on what the coloured community will consider 'airs'. They do not want to learn white behaviours or "white-folks' talk" even if it is correct, thus cementing the difference between the two so-called races. Later on in the novel, we meet Mr. Dolphus Raymond who courageously manages to break racial barriers and marry a coloured woman but ends up making his wife and children outcasts in both communities, since they are half-white and half-coloured. Jem tells Scout:

They don't belong anywhere. Coloured folks won't have 'em because they're half-white; white folks won't have'em 'cause they're colored, so they're just in-betweens, don't belong anywhere.

Their parents are thus forced to ship them off to less racist districts of North America. Thus, Lee proves that racism and hatred goes both ways and neither community is totally the victim. They are both the aggressors.

 

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