In what ways are Miss Harris and Mrs. Admas like Mrs. Burke?

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chloemink eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Anne (Essie Mae) works for Mrs. Burke who is a well-known racist. Mrs. Burke tries to teach Anne  to “know her place” in both subtle and deliberate ways. Rather than fully submit to the rude treatment by Mrs. Burke, Anne chooses to be detached and observant of her employer’s behavior—a foreshadowing of how she will react to racism as she grows increasingly aware of its manifestations around her. Anne begins to tests the limits of her place in this social hierarchy.

When Anne arrives at Natchez College she secures a job in the kitchen where she butts heads with Miss Harris, the head cook whom she considers an “Uncle Tom.”  When students discover maggots in their food, Anne organizes a dining hall strike to counter the unsanitary conditions upheld by Miss Harris.

Also after arriving at Natches College, Anne finds herself irritated with the juvenile rules set by Miss Adams, the basketball coach. When Miss Adams tries to punish her when she is sick, Anne defies her authority and discusses it with both the campus dean and president. She succeeds in getting around Miss Adams.

The experience with Mrs. Burke, Miss Harris and Mrs. Adams serve as labs in which Anne can resist authorities who try to punish her unfairly (as is the case with Miss Adams) or who don’t treat blacks properly (Mrs. Burke and Miss Harris).

Read the study guide:
Coming of Age in Mississippi

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