Racism In "To Kill A Mocking Bird" And "Gran Torino"

1327 words - 5 pages

Racism & Prejudice Essay

Racism & Prejudice Essay

Racism and prejudice is a very sensitive and important issue in our society. The two texts To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee and Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino both investigate racism and prejudice in society. They agree that racism is a result of ignorance, racism can have lasting negative effects and that overcoming racism/prejudice can lead to positive effects.

The theme that racism is a result of ignorance is found in To Kill a Mockingbird. This is explored through the character Bob Ewell, and Atticus is used to explore the opposite approach to racism. Mr. Ewell is considered to be the lowest white person in society.­­ He is rude, violent and extremely racist. "Atticus said the Ewells had been the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations. None of them had done an honest day's work in his recollection."(p.30) Mr. Ewell is a very racist man and accuses Tom of raping his daughter Mayella. Mr. Ewell's intellect shows that he is not able to understand the implications of his actions, and outcasts anyone else who is different. He is ignorant of the effects on Tom Robinson, and most likely does not care. Because of his very stubborn attitude, the author Harper Lee can help the audience infer that racism is caused by his ignorance. In contrast, Atticus is the perfect example of how understanding can lead to his views on equality. Atticus is a kind loving father who is awfully smart. He also maintains his principles in any situation. "Atticus Finch is the same in his house as he is on the public streets"(p.46). He is supportive of equality and believes that racism is the lowest a man can fall. Because of Atticus' intellect, he is able to see the implications of racism and empathises with Tom, realising that racism is bad. This is clear that racism comes from ignorance as Atticus is neither ignorant, nor racist. Since Atticus can feel for the coloured people and has the sense to place himself in their shoes, he is not racist. Atticus says "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."(p.33). This quote backs up the idea that Atticus is smart enough to take the coloured people's perspective and stay anti-racist.

A parallel can be drawn with the character Walt in Gran Torino. In the film, Walt is a very patriotic, proud and fearless character. He lives in a suburb that has many Asian residences. In seeing his own suburb becoming "taken over" by the Asians, Walt establishes a very negative and racist view toward their culture. This is also partially influenced by his experience in the Korean War. After a period of tension between the Hmong and Walt, he eventually establishes a relationship with a Hmong family and begins to understand more about their culture, attitudes and traditions. An extremely important scene was when Walt...

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