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Discuss Race Relations in "To Kill a Mockingbird"
Discuss the attitudes of whites towards blacks in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Thanks to their father's decency and wisdom, Scout and Jem--although white--have not been infected with the racism that surrounds them. There is no racial barrier between them and Cal, for instance. The only problem they ever have with Cal is that she makes them behave.
It is very telling that when Jem and Scout attend Tom's trial, they are very happy to sit with Rev. Sykes when he invites them to join him in the "Colored balcony."
When Jem is so disillusioned after Tom is convicted, Miss Maudie reminds Jem that there are others in the community who are not racists. She includes herself in that number, "people like us," and also mentions Judge Taylor and Heck Tate. Based on his editorial after Tom's conviction, Mr. Underwood should be included here, as well.
The most flagrant example of the white community's racist attitude towards the black people of Maycomb is Aunt Alexandra, ironically also an 'outsider.' When she comes to help out with the children during the trial (Atticus had to be away from home more often than usual), she moves in and 'takes over.' When Atticus discusses racism at home, Alexandra wants to hush her brother up and not talk about such things in front of Calpurnia, the Finchs' Negro cook and housekeeper. She is afraid that Calpurnia will spread "talk" among the black people, which will eventually stir up trouble. Atticus tells her flatly that anything he has to say at home can also be heard by Calpurnia. This vote of confidence sets her aback a bit but she respects her brother's decision.
Link Deas, Helen Robinson's white employer, evidently respects her and the Robinson family. When Mr Ewell bothers her, Link Deas tells Ewell to back off or he will find himself arrested under harassment charges. Mr Dolphus Raymond is another white citizen who sympathizes with the black community, even preferring the company of Negroes to whites. For this he is ostracized, but this doesn't stop him from living the way he prefers.
The ambivalence of black-white relations is intentional throughout 'To Kill a Mockingbird' as Harper Lee portrays a community divided among itself over such issues as prejudice versus tolerance. See the reference below for a portrayal of some minor characters who also exemplify this duality.
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