Explore how historical events, culture and upbringing influence the presence of racial discrimination in society. Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and John Graham’s A Time To Kill are postmodernist 20th century American novels which portray racial discrimination as a result of culture, upbringing and historical events. They continue to be relevant today as numerous anti-discrimination laws are a clear indicator of the ongoing presence of racial prejudice. Both novels focus on the battle against injustice as the white lawyers fight to defend African-American clients in controversial court cases against “a system… Able to see… The human side of the individual’s problem. ” These trials are comparable to Kabob’s court case in Snow Falling On Cedars where discrimination is directed at Japanese-Americans, partly due to the role of the Japanese in World War II. From this outline, it might seem that the racial discrimination is aimed at the obvious victims – the African-American and Japanese defendants. However, I intend to demonstrate that this clinch©d reader response may neglect to consider the unlikely victims of discrimination – the white sympathizers who courageously oppose “the sin” of “kill[ins] a mockingbird.
In my opinion, tolerance of racial prejudice is a result of cultural traditions and socially acceptable customs. Lee’s novel is a ‘bloodcurdling’ novel, a German term meaning formation novel’, as it focuses on Scout’s maturation and her quest for understanding and identity. Lee uses the first person narration of Scout to relay many random, seemingly insignificant episodes of her childhood, which appear superficial but contain profound insights into the racist situation of the sass’s. For example, when Attic’s children sneak into Mr..
Raddled garden in the hopes of seeing the mysterious Boo, it s immediately assumed by the neighbors to be “a Negro in his collard patch. ” This association of African-Americans with criminal behavior is reinforced when Attic’s outlines the traditional “assumption… That all Negroes lie… That all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women,” which was supported by numerous works of literature of the time such as Tom Brady Black Monday in which he claimed blacks would be a threat to “the… Purest of God’s creatures… He well-bred, cultured Southern white woman. ” This view can be compared to Horse’s hypothesis in Sturgeon’s novel when he assumes the murderer is a ‘Jape’. After examining Carol’s head wound, Horace advises the sheriff “to start looking for a Jape with a bloody gun butt” because the Japanese are trained in keno or stick fighting. Racial discrimination is viewed in Macomb as socially tolerable behavior for the white population. Those who demean the black inhabitants are seen as normal rather than discriminatory.
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When Mr.. Gilder, the defense attorney, cross-examines Tom Robinson unjustly by “talking so hateful to him -” ironically the only person affected I started crying and couldn’t stop. ” The views to Macomb citizens are revealed when Scout comments, “after all, he’s Just a Negro. This is reinforced in A Time to Kill when Tanya Halley, the little black girl who was brutally raped, is described, from the white perspective, as “Just a little Niger… Illegitimate… Like all of them. This dismissive opinion of the blacks in the sass’s remains steeped in racial prejudice, mirroring the racist situation five decades earlier in To Kill A Mockingbird set in the sass’s. This intellectuality can be explained by the fact that both Gresham and Stutters were heavily influenced in the writing of their own novels by Lee’s renowned portrayal of racial prejudice in To Kill A Mockingbird. However, Lee’s work has been critiqued as being “… Designed principally to create warmth, which doesn’t exclude ugliness but views it through generally optimistic eyes … to vigorous enough to celebrate life, but does enjoy it. ” Those who disagree with the racial discrimination, such as Mr.. Raymond, are viewed as peculiar as long as Macomb citizens can say, “He can’t help himself, that’s why he lives the way he does. ” He explains in simple, colloquial language to Scout that, “they could never, never understand… That’s the way I want to live. ” It seems that a person must be drunk or seclusion’s to associate with Macomb’s black residents. However, individuals such as Attic’s who do not possess this excuse quickly become ostracizes, even within their own families.
Scout’s cousin uses child-like, idiomatic language to inform her that “if Uncle Attic’s is a Niger-lover… It certainly does mortify the rest of the family. ” Reputation is highly esteemed in Macomb and those who choose to disregard it by fighting racial discrimination are seen as “ruin’ the family. ” In A Time to Kill, Jake, a white sympathizer is repeatedly threatened by intimidating phone calls in which he s called “a Niger-loving son off bitchy” and which promise “revenge if Carl Lee was acquitted. His life, family and reputation are Jeopardized simply because he chooses to oppose the social protocol of the time by fighting for Justice and equality for all, regardless of skin color. One white sympathizer in Snow Falling On Cedars is similarly intimidated when warned “Jape lovers get their balls cutoff’ after he refuses to condone the “pointless and merciless” evacuation of the Japanese during World War II whilst the Americans of Italian and German descent remained. Bob Else’s similarly violent threats throughout Lee’s novel culminate in a brutal attack on Attic’s children.
Structurally, this event is significant as the narrative begins by foreshadowing the attack to ‘hook the reader’s attention and ends with the revelation that Lowell was the mysterious assailant who broke Gem’s arm. Lowell doesn’t have the courage to “come after… [Attic’s] face to face. ” Instead, he resorts to “liquor… To make him brave enough to kill children. ” Even though Scout and Gem are innocent, the fact that their father is a white sympathizer makes them guilty by association in Else’s yes. This shows how racial persecution affects white sympathizers and those affiliated with them.
Another important aspect of Macomb culture is the language employed to describe the black population and white sympathizers. Scout has grown up labeling African-Americans with the derogatory, yet socially acceptable term of ‘Niger’. Using deconstructionist as a critique to examine the linguistics, it is questionable whether Scout truly meaner what she intends as she is Just a child and may not be aware of the real meaning of the word. Attic’s educates her, telling her the term is “common. This is mirrored when a white Juror in Graham’s novel finds the same word “personally attentive. Today, the word ‘Niger’ is highly insulting, even abusive, but in the sass and even later it was often used to describe the African-Americans, or ‘mockingbirds’, of Lee’s novel. Lee uses the symbolic metaphor of the ‘mockingbird’ to associate the senseless slaughter of songbirds with the irrational discrimination against the blacks. It is also interesting to note that the novel’s principal white sympathizers, the Finch family, have a ‘bird’ name. Perhaps the Finches are also ‘mockingbirds’, symbolizing the key ideas of freedom and song spite cruel persecution.
When the blacks also refer to themselves as ‘Niger’, it is a poignant indication that after centuries of being treated as inferior by the whites, the blacks may regard themselves as beneath their white employers. It may also indicate brotherhood of the black population and their distinct separation from the whites, as suggested by the Black Panther Movement of the sass’s. It continues to be used today as a sign of solidarity amongst the black population. The idiom ‘Niger-lover’ was used to “to intimidate whites who were sympathetic to naggers. This reveals hat discrimination through abusive language extends to white sympathizers. In Sturgeon’s novel, the Japanese are described as ‘Saps’ and considered so inferior that “the [white] census taker neglected to list them by name, referring instead to Jape Number 1, Jape Number 2… ” There also seems to be reverse racism as the Japanese refer to the whites as “hajji. ” In Macomb, the social divides are so noticeable that even young children are able to detect the social segregation between rich and poor, black and white.
Gem defines four groups: middle-class people like the Finches, folks eke the Cunningham who are poor but honest, the Ells and the ‘Negroes’. Scout struggles to differentiate between who has “background” and who is “trash. ” Lee uses the deceptively straightforward mediations of a child to question the root of racial discrimination and haughtiness towards those who are from a lower social class or have a different skin color. Gem and Scout reject the possibilities that background is based on how long a family has owned a piece of land or how long a families “been reading’ and writing. When they finally reach the epiphany that “there’s just one kind of folks,” Gem wonders, “… Why do they go out of their way to despise each other? ” This causes the reader to wrestle with the real cause of racial discrimination: if we are people, regardless of skin color, what separates us? Through Miss Maude, Lee defines real background as: those who “say that fair play is not marked White Only… ” In A Time To Kill, there is a clear social divide between the whites and blacks. “The whites still owned and controlled everything… Lat was not about to change. The black population must endure “ignorance and stark poverty… Hopelessly unemployed” as a result of white employers offering them the lowest- paying Jobs. This vast difference from the comfortable lives of the wealthy upper class white families could be one of the root causes of the underlying racial tension between the black and white populations. In Snow Falling On Cedars, the social classes consist of the upper-class whites and the lower-class Japanese. For example, the Japanese are forbidden to own land due to “the Alien Land LaW’ making land ownership “illegal… Or an alien. ” The Marxist criticism would claim that these restrictions on land ownership ensured that the upper class controlled the production and sale of goods as well as enjoyed all the profits. The interests of the irking class Japanese were not served. The upbringing and personal circumstances to Macomb citizens could intelligence racial prejudice. Lee’s novel is written Witt an chronological plot and therefore contains several flashbacks and digressions as Scout looks back on her upbringing by a black mother figure.
California has a considerable influence on Gem and Scout’s morals and language. In one amusing anecdote, Gem’s language is admonished by Scout, “California says that’s Niger-talk. ” This is ironic because, despite being black, California wants to raise the children to speak properly and reject the superstitions of the blacks. In A Time to Kill, there is a distinct difference between how the black population converse when whites are absent. “They had to show respect for the whites present. ” The blacks refrain from using idiomatic colloquialism or ‘Niger-talk.
In A Time To Kill, Gerald Alt is “one of the few white people… Who truly loved black people” due to an event in his childhood when a black stranger rescued him and his family from their burning house. “Primary solicitation takes place within the family and is crucially important in helping shape” how we view people. In Snow Falling On Cedars, Hats, a young Japanese RL is warned by her family against becoming “intertwined” with the whites. The purpose of her upbringing is to ensure she does “not forget that she was first and foremost Japanese. Although she lives in a white world, she must avoid being “tainted… [by]… The darkness in the hearts of the ‘hajji” or white Americans. This reveals the extent with which upbringing contributes to the racial divide between the Japanese and white Americans. “The Nisei [American-born Japanese children] grew up thinking of themselves as Americans, yet were reminded of their difference every time they encountered the… Ostracism of their white neighbors. ” Scout and Gem are brought up by Attic’s and California to avoid administrating against others despite the racist situation in Macomb.
For example, Attic’s uses the aphorism, “you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. ” When he shows Scout that the Ells “were people, but they lived like animals,” she begins to appreciate her situation in life as a white, middle-class child. However, those like Male Lowell, who had a neglected, abusive upbringing, discriminate against others due to their ignorance and lack of education. After Amylase’s mother died, she was harked with raising her younger siblings as her absent father “went off to the swamp for days. This lack of care and attention could have caused her intolerance of Tom Robinson. Male can be compared to a white rapist in Graham’s novel who grew up in a family where the children “raised themselves” and also lacked a father figure. Perhaps the absence of a decent upbringing in a loving family environment contributes to the racist behavior of these characters. Using the New Historicism criticism, the historical context of these novels may significantly influence their presentation of racial discrimination.
In To Kill A Mockingbird, events such as slavery and segregation are deeply woven into the tapestry of American history and therefore contribute to the racial discrimination of the time. The lingering tension between North and South as a result of the Civil War is mentioned in the first few pages of Lee’s novel where references are made to the slave days when wealthy white men ran cotton plantations like kingdoms. The Civil War “stripped his [Simon Finch’s] descendants of everything but their land” as the Emancipation Proclamation freed the millions of slaves working on these plantations.
The resentment of many alienation owners at the loss of free slave labor continued down the generations and into t e n 20th century. The past directly attests the present, prompting Attic’s’ epigram: “… Because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win. ” In Snow Falling On Cedars, a New Historicist criticism would suggest that the racist situation of the time is influenced by the novel’s historical context – World War II and the deportation of Japanese immigrants from their homes in internment camps.
In the early sass, almost 110,000 Japanese immigrated to the United States looking for work. Even though the Japanese comprised only 2% of all immigrants, they became victims of racial prejudice due to xenophobia and fear that they would take Americans’ Jobs. Racial prejudice against the Japanese peaked after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the deportation of all Japanese, in 1942. When Arthur, a Japanese sympathizer, writes in his newspaper that “prejudice and hatred are never right and never to be accepted by a Just society’ he is seen as preferring the ‘Saps. Despite the fact that German and Italian immigrants were not deported and yet ironically many Japanese-American men fought in the war on America’s side, his war-time prejudice affects Kabob’s trial ten years later in 1954. Simply because Kabob’s face is Japanese, the Jurors are “reminded of… Japanese soldiers” and he is viewed as an enemy throughout the trial even though Kabul is a US army veteran. This clearly demonstrates how historical context can lead to racial discrimination. As a result of the Civil War, the blacks in the South were treated very differently from those in the North.
In To Kill A Mockingbird, “People up there [in the North] set ‘me free, but you don’t see them setting’ at the table with ‘me… Down here [in the South] e Just say you’ll live your way and we’ll live ours. ” Severe segregation remained strongly enforced during the sass, especially in the South where segregation was not declared unconstitutional until 1968. This took place after intense civil rights demonstrations by activists such as Martin Luther King. In Macomb, the blacks live in “the Quarters” and in Graham’s novel, segregation lingers in the cafes, Jails and even the courthouse.
For example, when the black sheriff enters a white bar to arrest the suspected rapist, he is told “we don’t allow naggers in here. ” This underlying call tension was greatly intensified by the Depression of the sass’s. Over 25% of the work force became unemployed, leading to financial difficulty for millions of people. This caused ferocious rivalry between blacks and whites for the few Jobs available resulting in racial discrimination and an increased number of black lynching’s. For example, the gang that plans to lynch Tom Robinson consists of several Cunningham who were “farmers and the crash hit them hardest. Their behavior towards Tom could be due to the economic collapse and resentment of black workers taking scarce Jobs. This bitterness led to the Klux Klux Klan in 1866 whose idealism was the restoration of white supremacy. In A Time to Kill, the Klan burns crosses, for the first time in years, to threaten the white sympathizers. The last time a cross was burnt was “in the yard off Niger accused of raping a white woman. ” The Klan also burns down Sake’s house, kill his secretary husband and injure his law clerk. The Clan’s actions reveal how white sympathizers often risk their lives fighting against racial discrimination.
These three novels can be classed as social protest novels as he authors aim to tell a story that emphasizes the contemporary social problem of racial prejudice whilst attempting to stimulate change for the better. Stutters noted in a recent interview that “not enough writers are presenting moral questions for redirection, which I think is a very important obligation. ” These novels explore now racial discrimination is affected by culture, upbringing and historical events, and the different responses of certain characters to the presence of racial prejudice. It becomes clear that racial discrimination has life-changing effects not only for the