Title of Abstract

It is time to move on: To Kill a Mockingbird’s missed opportunities for antiracist concepts

Poster Number

50

Submitting Student(s)

Bryn Davies Eddy

Faculty Sponsor (for work done with a non-Winthrop mentor)

Leslie Bickford, Ph.D.

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

English

Abstract

To Kill a Mockingbird, published by Harper Lee in 1960, has often been used as antiracist propaganda in the classroom and in general antiracist rhetoric. However, Mockingbird has limitations in its treatment of racism and patriarchy when reading the novel through womanist and intersectional lenses. By only including interiority from Scout and not Calpurnia, Mayella, or Tom, Lee’s novel misses opportunities for an intersectional and womanist approach to character building and plot direction. Additional texts that support this idea include work from critic Julia L. Ernst and her claim that Atticus is antifeminist in his mistreatment of Mayella; critic Steven Lubet, who approaches Atticus’ actions though a lawyer’s point of view; critic Dean Kolbas, whose research describes the modernization of the literary canon. Research examining and defining womanism, intersectionality, and white-savior complexes, paired with analysis of the novel, leads to the conclusion that the novel is not sufficiently antiracist because it not only lacks representation of critical antiracist concepts like intersectionality and womanism, but it is also plagued with ideals in line with a white savior complex. While the novel is indicative of how far society has come in terms of racial equality, it has already peaked in its antiracist ideas and is now out of date in how it treats its characters of color. This is especially noticeable when comparing it to more diversity-driven texts that are given more critical attention today, including the writings of Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, and Zora Neale Hurston.

Start Date

15-4-2022 12:00 PM

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Apr 15th, 12:00 PM

It is time to move on: To Kill a Mockingbird’s missed opportunities for antiracist concepts

To Kill a Mockingbird, published by Harper Lee in 1960, has often been used as antiracist propaganda in the classroom and in general antiracist rhetoric. However, Mockingbird has limitations in its treatment of racism and patriarchy when reading the novel through womanist and intersectional lenses. By only including interiority from Scout and not Calpurnia, Mayella, or Tom, Lee’s novel misses opportunities for an intersectional and womanist approach to character building and plot direction. Additional texts that support this idea include work from critic Julia L. Ernst and her claim that Atticus is antifeminist in his mistreatment of Mayella; critic Steven Lubet, who approaches Atticus’ actions though a lawyer’s point of view; critic Dean Kolbas, whose research describes the modernization of the literary canon. Research examining and defining womanism, intersectionality, and white-savior complexes, paired with analysis of the novel, leads to the conclusion that the novel is not sufficiently antiracist because it not only lacks representation of critical antiracist concepts like intersectionality and womanism, but it is also plagued with ideals in line with a white savior complex. While the novel is indicative of how far society has come in terms of racial equality, it has already peaked in its antiracist ideas and is now out of date in how it treats its characters of color. This is especially noticeable when comparing it to more diversity-driven texts that are given more critical attention today, including the writings of Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, and Zora Neale Hurston.