Racial Inequality in The Help and To Kill a Mockingbird

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Both The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee take place in times of harsh racial inequality in the South; however, they mutually carry the idea of racial equality. Both books show effort towards change in society, which may often be perceived as being led by the whites. However, despite strong, white protagonists created by Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird and Kathryn Stockett in The Help, this is not unintentionally racist; in the societies the novels are placed in, the blacks virtually had no choice but to follow the whites, or face extreme consequences, and there was an equal respect involved. The authors strived to ensure the books were true to the time period. While the society at the time was extremely racist, neither book is, even if the whites may often appear like the leader.

To Kill a Mockingbird takes place around 1935, a time in which blacks had very few rights and white supremacy was ubiquitous; this setting becomes a major obstacle for Tom Robinson. This society is shown through Tom Robinson’s trial, and his much needed reliance on Atticus. Though it can be argued that Atticus is portrayed by Harper Lee as better than Tom Robinson, and as his savior, this is not the case. Due to the setting of the novel, Tom Robinson had no alternative but to put his faith into Atticus’s hands, or face further consequences. Atticus then proceeded to prove Tom’s innocence. Atticus may have been depicted as the leader in this struggle for Tom’s innocence, but that does not mean Tom was weak, he simply had no choice if Harper Lee was going to make the novel accurate. After Tom’s death when he was shot escaping prison, Scout realizes, “Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella opened her mouth and screamed” ...

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...may seem to be the strong leader, that sometimes may be true, but it does not prove to be racist. Breaking that would be unrealistic for the time period the novels are set in. The blacks are shown using that white leadership as safety, and to accomplish tasks they were not capable of doing because of the consequences in doing so. In both books, both races are shown respecting each other, and often equalizing themselves. In these ways, neither book can be proved racist. Harper Lee and Kathryn Stockett illustrated the condescending lines of racism and the wrong that existed in these societies, and in doing so accomplished the difficult task of not being racist themselves.

Works Cited

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1960. New York: Warner Books, 1999.

Stockett, Kathryn. The Help. New York: Amy Einhorn, 2009. Print.
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