For those who have seen the film, it's difficult not to picture Braithwaite exactly as Sidney Poitier portrays him (with his named changed to Mr. Thackeray). Poitier was the perfect actor for the role, though in the novel Braithwaite apparently speaks with more of a British than an American accent....
For those who have seen the film, it's difficult not to picture Braithwaite exactly as Sidney Poitier portrays him (with his named changed to Mr. Thackeray). Poitier was the perfect actor for the role, though in the novel Braithwaite apparently speaks with more of a British than an American accent. But apart from outward appearance and speech, the essence of Braithwaite's character is that he's more suited to be a teacher than any of the others who are his colleagues. Braithwaite realizes from the start that he's going to encounter prejudice from both the staff and the students because of his color. Yet he reflects no bitterness about it and seems to react with a calm, rational attitude, even when confronted with the bigoted remarks of a teacher like Weston.
His attitude to the students is partly governed by his understanding of their own form of otherness as working-class people. Braithwaite is the Other but ironically fits in better with the whole academic milieu than the other teachers do. But the essence of his character can perhaps be shown by a comparison of a particular scene from the book with that of the film. In both, as a prank one of the girls in class has thrown a used sanitary napkin into the classroom stove. In the novel Braithwaite, though obviously hugely annoyed by the prank, keeps his cool and even describes the incident in an almost matter-of-fact way in the narrative. In the film, his reaction is much more openly angry.
The elements of interracial romance and the problems caused by it are shown more openly in the book, but Braithwaite always remains calm and, despite the obvious inner resentment he feels, keeps it under control.
As a result of these features, some might judge Braithwaite a too idealized character. But whether or not his behavior is somehow too exceptional, too perfect, the novel has the ring of truth and is a landmark in interracial progress, coming as it did in the midst of the major changes of the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1950s.