I have been studying four texts for this report, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, “A Party Down at the Square” by Ralph Waldo Elison, “Mississipi Burning” by Alan Parker and “Green Mile” directed by the famous Frank Darabont. All these texts show connections and have similarities to help us to explore the idea of key individuals or group of people or the justice system shows racist attitude. They can do this verbally, physically or turning the blind eye. Verbally means using derogatory language towards Black American. Physical means using violence to make themselves feel superior. Justice system meaning that there is no fair legal trial. Turning the blind eye means bystander effect that is affected by this.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is set in a fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama during 1930’s. It charts the small town life of a young white girl, Scout, living in a deeply segregated society. Her father, Atticus, is a lawyer, is given a task of representing Tom Robinson. He is a young black man who is falsely accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell. Her father Bob Ewell, humiliated and vows revenge. He spits at Atticus’ face tried to get into the judges house and stalks the judges’ wife and tried hurting Jem and Scout during the Halloween pageant. During this time Atticus was called a “nigger lover” by Bob Ewell and the townspeople and he still kept his head high and did the best he can do to defend Tom Robinson.
The short story “A Party Down at the Square” is the story of a boy who witnesses lynching. The young boy is at his uncles somewhere Deep South when a bunch of men yelling there will be a party down at the square. The reader then realizes that the party consists of a lynching of a young black man. The whole town is attending except of course the black community and everyone is screaming for excitement. With a storm causing confusion, an airplane crashes through power lines but successfully land near the town square. A young woman gets electrocuted and dies instantly. Despite the chaos of the storm and the crashed airplane, the mob turns into focus back on the young black man who is getting burned to death. When the black man asks politely for a quick death, Jed Wilson who is the leader refuses saying “ain’t no Christians here tonight, we’re just one hundred percent Americans.” The black man burns to death. After the events the young boy falls ill causing him to be mocked by southern relatives. Later at a general store, a white sharecropper speaks about lynching.The towns people just told him to shut up.
“Mississippi Burning” directed by Alan Parker, is a movie based on a true story about one black and two white civil rights activists disappeared near Philadelphia, Mississippi on June 21st 1964. The three activists in real life, James Chavey, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner but there were not named in the movie are driving, tailed by several cars. When they stopped they are murdered and their bodies hidden by a nib if white men who are connected to the KKK, Ku Klux Klan, Later the FBI turned up to resolve this problem. Agent Anderson and Agent Ward, these agents are from Washington who uses violent and somewhat not violent methods to investigate who the murderers are.
The film “Green Mile” directed by Frank Darabont is set in 1930 in prison, death row. Paul Edgecomb is slightly cynical veteran prison guard on death row. His faith and sanity is deteriorated by watching mean live and die. His life completely turned around, attitude changed when John Coffey, a seven feet tall black man, who’s hands are a size of waffle irons arrived in his prison. John Coffey is big and all but he is very emotional and shy and who is afraid of the dark. This shows us that when he found the two white girls covered in blood in the woods. He was so shocked of what happened, he began to hold them and started crying because he couldn’t believe what happened. He was then accused of murdering these girls with no questions asked was sent to death row. Edgecomb, Brotus the sympathetic guard, and Percy, a stuck up perverse and violent person going on a strange ride that involves intelligent mice, brutal executions and revelation about John Coffey’s innocence and true identity.
In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, A key individual that shows his racist attitude is Bob Ewell. Bob Ewell is a drunkard and an abuser who is despised by the whole community and very likely his family as well. He is a lowlife white trash who lives in the dump just outside the town. He shows his racist attitude by calling the black community a “nigger nest” also he called Atticus a “nigger lover” for defending Tom Robinson. Bob Ewell has no respect for himself and no respect for others. When the lawyer defending Mayella asks, “Are you the father of Mayella Ewell?” Bob responds, “Well, if I ain’t one, can’t do nothing about it now, her Ma’s dead.” Bobs position is to be the antagonist to everyone.
His response is not only a rude attempt to impress others by making a joke it also hints what he sees about women in general, liars and cheaters whose deaths are to be laughed about. After the trial Bob wasn’t satisfied about the sentence of Tom Robinson, so for revenge he spits at Atticus’ face, stalks the judges’ wife and tried to kill Jem and Scout. Bob had a taste of power. In his mind the whole town thinks he’s a hero, he’s superior in reality the community found out that he is a liar and treats his family bad. The townspeople just told him to go back to the dump where he belongs. Harper Lee tells us that racism and sexism is the only way Bob can feel superior to anybody. No white man in the Maycomb community who is not about Ewell heirachy. So he puts people who are below him, Black Americans and women.
Another key individual who shows their racist attitude is in the short story “A Party Down at the Square” by Ralph Waldo Elison, the character called Jed Wilson. Jed shows his racist attitude when he “tied and dragged the nigger to the back of Jed Wilsons truck.” HE is also the leader of the lunching mob that is going to burn the young black man to death. Jed hollered “What you say there, nigger?” and it came back through the flames in his nigger voice “Will somebody cut my throat like a Christian?” and Jed responded “sorry , but ain’t no Christians around tonight. Ain’t no Jew boys either. We’re just one hundred percent Americans.” This shows me that he is not only racist, it also tells us what his religious beliefs are and that he does not want Jews nor Christians in his lynching mob. Since the black people are God-fearing and God-loving community, Jed Wilson doesn’t like it. He thinks that American for him is a religion.
Just as long as your American and you’re white you are accepted by “his” community. Jed Wilson says this to make himself feel superior just like Bob Ewell. Unlike Bob Ewell, Jed is known to anybody and everybody in the town. He does not live in the dump like Bob does. Jed is very known that “ain’t no black man can stand in his way, no white man either.” Jed makes himself superior, he is selected as the new sheriff in town for burning a black man alive. Although whether its using derogatory words by calling a black community a nigger nest or through violence like burning a black man alive.
They still lead to one thing, death. Jed and Bob are similar in a way that they are both racist and hate the black community. They put people who are below them to make themselves feel good and superior and feel like they are the hero, a savior for killing a man with different skin color, race and religious beliefs. They judge them straight away because they have something different to them and want them out of their community. The only difference is that Bob Ewell uses oral derogatory words to get rid of the black community in the area, but both still similar in a way to show their racist attitude towards the black community.
In the film “Mississippi Burning” directed by Alan Parker, the character Clayton Townley is very racist qualities and attitudes. He says he is a “local businessman” but his actions and words spoken weren’t the words of a local businessman. An example is when he was giving a speech at a large audience at a night time pro-white rally “They hate us because we present a shining example of successful segregation.” He said this to make himself feel good and feel superior towards black people in an inhumane way. Words can’t describe his ways of killing methods. Differences in To Kill a Mockingbird and Mississippi Burning is that the white people who were out to get the black people had an organized plan. Clayton Townley is the spokesperson or the representative leader of the group called Ku Klux Klan.
They create consistency throughout their actions. The Ewells and the racist community of Maycomb weren’t consistent in their actions against the black people. Bob had a plan on his head but Atticus’ strong evidence depicted Bobs pride. Character conflicts that are the same in the book and in the movie was that many white people didn’t want to be seen with blacks because they would be considered as an outcast. Similarities between these characters are that Clayton Townley and Bob Ewell share the same thing in their mind. They both want power and superiority to make themselves feel good. They are both seen as heroes in their community but eventually they are caught dead or in prison.
Also the difference between the film and book is that they are set 30 years apart. In Mississippi Burning, there are many civil rights movements and civil rights activists and in the book To Kill a Mockingbird, it was just a small town community in Alabama with local people. “We do not accept Jews because they reject Christ. We do not accept Turks, Mongrels, Tartars, Oriental nor Negroes because we are here to protect Anglo-Saxon Democracy and the American way!” Similar words were also spoken by Jed Wilson in the short story “Party Down at the Square”. As long as you are American and you’re white, you are accepted. This tells me that all three characters are similar in a way that they all racist and have different qualities.
In the movie “Green Mile” directed by Frank Darabont shows us that racism does not only come from individuals or group of people, it also shows us that the justice system is corrupt and people aren’t given free trial. John Coffey falsely accused of murdering two white girls. Justice system says you are not guilty until proven but John was never given this. Therefore shows us that the justice system is corrupt and shows racism. John Coffey was convicted and executed for crime he never committed. Paul Edgecomb asks if he can do something or anything else, John replied “I’m tired of feeling pain in the world it’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time. Can’t you understand?” this quote is referring to the way John feels about discriminated on a constant daily basis. Another example of racism is conviction itself. This movie shows John Coffey a big man with a big heart. He found two white girls dead in the woods, shocked of what happened, he began to hold them and started crying because he couldn’t believe what happened.
He was found with the girls and immediately convicted with no questions asked. This is a clear example of racism. Just because a black man sitting with two white girls doesn’t mean he committed the crime. The legal system should never make assumptions based on race but only n scientific facts. This led us also to, To Kill a Mockingbird justice system. John Coffey and Tom Robinson in a way are in a similar position. Tom Robinson was a young black man accused of raping a white girl. Although given strong evidence that he did not rape the white girl. The white jury still found him guilty because the color of his skin. Although the judge himself thought that Tom Robinson was not guilty, the justice system is corrupt and racist by concluding and making assumptions that a black man, different race is inferior and whites are superior. This tells me that not only key individuals show their racist attitude but also the legal and justice system is corrupt and racist.
I’ve reach in conclusion that the causes of racism are similar to bullying, where people put each other down because they are different. In this case racism, the white community is putting down the black community because they have different skin color, they have different religious beliefs and have different values and culture. The white community refers to them as an outcast and Bob Ewell refers their community as a “nigger nests”. I found that key individuals show different qualities of racism that make them stand out from others.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, A Party Down at the Square, Mississippi Burning and Green Mile the authors and directors were conveying important ideas and themes within them that relates to the characters racist attitude and also the legal system were corrupt and racist however even though they use inhumane and derogatory language to show their racist attitude they still lead to one thing, that is death. A similar idea that these texts showed me was to never lose hope and keep your head up and not let other people put you down because you are different. You are unique in your own way. I say “They laugh at me because I’m different but I laugh at them because they are the same.”