What is Mr. Braithwaite's character and appearance in To Sir, With Love by E. R. Braithwaite?

Mr. Braithwaite's character in To Sir, With Love becomes known for his kindness and innovative approach to teaching. He is kind and intelligent, and he has an outstanding work ethic. In terms of his appearance, he is Black and always presents a calm and dignified manner.

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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....

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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.

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The first thing you need to know about Mr. Braithwaite is that if you had been lucky enough to be taught by him, it is highly likely that he would be the best teacher you ever had.

Unperturbed by the failure of the official curricula to get through to his semi-literate and super-disinterested charges, Mr. Braithwaite simply changes his teaching tactics. He does this in spite of having faced remarkable abuse in the classroom, with students swearing at him, continuously making a noise while he is trying to teach and, in an action that proves to be a catalyst for change, burning a sanitary napkin in his classroom.

The fact that he endures all of this shows that his character is tough and resilient. The fact that he has the brilliant idea of taking his students on field trips to make their coursework come to life shows that his character is innovative and highly capable of change and improvement. At the beginning, he became a teacher because it was the only job he could get. By the end, he had found a passion and a vocation.

When it comes to his physical appearance, the first thing to mention is that he is Black. Throughout this great book, his appearance is implied to be dignified, respectful, and in keeping with his profession as a teacher.

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Mr. Braithwaite is a very intelligent, hard-working man; he is a bright, friendly individual with a strong sense of duty, whether it's towards serving the British Empire during the war or to teaching a class full of slum kids. Braithwaite is the kind of person one automatically respects, both for his achievements and his personality. Unfortunately, he doesn't get much in the way of respect in the deeply prejudiced society of post-war Britain. Far too many people fail to see beneath Braithwaite's dark skin and immediately write him off as an exotic, unwelcome stranger who doesn't really belong in the country. However, the dogged, persistent, and dignified way that Braithwaite deals with his numerous encounters with racial prejudice merely serves to heighten our admiration for him.

As to Braithwaite's appearance, well it's entirely consistent with his dignified demeanor. He comes from a traditional culture in which formal dress is considered a sign of social respectability. Braithwaite is rejected by many of the people he encounters in Britain on account of his skin color; they regard him as somewhat less than civilized. Yet ironically, he shows himself to be a good deal more civilized than much of the indigenous population in how he conducts himself, especially in comparison to the East End slum kids he bravely tries to teach.

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Ricky Braithwaite is an educated and intelligent engineer from British Guiana who served in the RAF in Britain during World War II. He can't find a job after the war because of racial prejudice in England, so he decides to teach at Greenslade, a school in London's East End. While he claims to be quick to anger, in reality he handles racism with intelligence and perseverance. For example, when he's on the bus to the East End in Chapter 1, a woman refuses to sit next to him because of the color of his skin. The bus driver wants to force her to do so, but Ricky decides to get off at the next stop instead, as he senses that this is not a woman he'd like to deal with. He is inherently respectful of the students at the school and treats them like adults, expecting respect in return. He has high standards, but he holds himself to the same high standards. He is carefully observant of what works with each student, and he is willing to work hard to help his students improve. 

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