1.What do the protagonist's responses to various women from the East End of London reveal about his own social class?  2. What do the other teachers think of the students potentials? 3. Compare...

1.What do the protagonist's responses to various women from the East End of London reveal about his own social class? 

2. What do the other teachers think of the students potentials?

3. Compare the time period when the novel was set to present.

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. After Ricardo Braithwaite finds himself a teacher at Greenslade Secondary School, he is shocked by the speech and behavior of the students from the East side of London. Their reading and math skills are poor; they are motivated to engage in cursing. demonstrating their disrespect for Mr. Braithwaite, and in fondling one another one another. When the girls toss a used sanitary product into the grate of the fireplace in the classroom, Braithwaite is disgusted by the girls' conduct, their "crude language and sluttish behavior."

When he goes through the neighborhoods in order to find a room to rent, he is refused by Mrs. Pegg, mother of Braithwaite's student, Barbara.

"Good evening. I'm here to inquire about the room."
Immediately the smile was replaced by the expression of cold withdrawal I had come to know so well.
"Sorry, I'm not letting."
"Mrs. Pinkus told me about it just a few minutes ago...."
"Sorry, I've changed me mind." (ch.13)

Ironically, it is Barbara Pegg who has defended him on the bus as the class traveled to the Victoria and Albert Museum when the English women stare with disapproval at Braithwaite and exclaim, "shameless young girls and these black men." Barbara returns, "He is our teacher. Do you mind?" (Ch. 12) The other "busybodies" blush when they hear this exchange.

Braithwaite recalls when he had been in school in England as a youth. He had dated, and his skin color had not mattered. But, several of the white males suggested that the white women were merely curious about the "sexual prowess of the Negro." He remarks that he now sees the disapproval on the faces of the English women at the sight of a woman in the company of a Negro. "Only the strongest women could survive such treatment."

2. While Braithwaite believes the children can improve and learn, the other teachers are not so optimistic, doubtful that Braithwaite will continue there. About the students, Weston has told Braithwaite, "They're morrons, cold as stone, nothing matters to them, nothing." Even the Headmaster, Mr. Florian tells Brathwaite, who knows the students "are difficult" as they are rejected from other schools. Florian urges Braithwaite to "have a look around." Other teachers ask him if he will stay for the year. 

3. To Sir With Love was published in 1959 after a tremendous influx of Africans and other blacks from former colonies to fill jobs left empty by a decimated British population after World War II. In the 1960's laws that threatened to repatriate entire swathes of the Black population were being pushed into place, and sections of the white middle classes were resentful towards the black community. But a British Black Pride group in Brixton, south London – educated British black people about their history and gave them a voice to speak out against prejudice. Rising also during this time were militant Black Panthers, as well. Curiously, photos display many more African immigrants in the London inner city that Braithwaite seems to depict. So, it seems the racial situations in London were not dissimilar from those in big cities and the Southern states of America at that time. 

Nowadays, London is greatly changed from 1959: the total black population of London is 1,088,640. London's white population is 4,887,435, so the proportions are greatly different from 1959. There are also 1,511,546 Asians, and 106,000 Arabs. 

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To Sir, with Love

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