In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, why are the Raymond children not accepted by white or black communities?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mr. Dolphus Raymond occupies a special place in racially-segregated Maycomb, Alabama, the fictional town at the center of Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird. According to Jem, Dolphus Raymond's fiance committed suicide when she found out about his African American mistress. Dolphus Raymond, unlike many of the town's Caucasian population, is not a particularly prejudiced individual. In fact, his long-time girlfriend is African American, and he prefers the company of blacks to that of his fellow whites. As Jem explains Mr. Raymond's preferences with regard to socializing to his inquisitive sister, he states:

“He likes ‘em (African Americans) better’n he likes us, I reckon. Lives by himself way down near the county line. He’s got a colored woman and all sorts of mixed chillun. Show you some of ’em if we see ‘em.”

As Jem's explanation indicates, Raymond has fathered racially-mixed children with his African American girlfriend, and these children now exist in an unfortunate gulf between blacks and whites. It is in Chapter Sixteen of Lee's novel that Jem educates his younger sister on the realities of race in their town. Explaining that Mr. Raymond's children are outcasts, Jem notes that these children's situation is sad, prompting Scout to ask why the Raymond children are sad, to which Jem replies:

“They don’t belong anywhere. Colored folks won’t have ‘em because they’re half white; white folks won’t have ’em cause they’re colored, so they’re just inbetweens, don’t belong anywhere." 

Jem's explanation is a sad commentary on humanity, but it is an accurate depiction of the situation for mixed-race children around the world. Vietnamese children fathered by American soldiers during the Vietnam War grew up ostracized by their fellow Vietnamese because of their mixed heritage. The situation was no different for the children of white fathers and black mothers (or vice versa). Raymond's children are not accepted by either of the two communities in Maycomb because of their mixed-race heritage.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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