How many times have English departments grappled with the question of teaching the same old texts? It seems that every book from the Western literary canon has been dissected and analyzed. However, there is one novel that always stays at the forefront: “To Kill a Mockingbird”. This timeless classic, written by a white woman and narrated by a young white girl, has captured the hearts of readers around the world. But amidst its traditional narrative, there lies an opportunity for anti-bias teaching. Enter Lula, a female African-American character who offers a unique perspective within the story.
Table of Contents
Seeing Through Lula’s Eyes
In Chapter 12 of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the narrative takes a shift, bringing African American characters to the forefront. This chapter provides a rare chance for readers to see these characters as three-dimensional individuals with their own lives, positive roles within their communities, and positions of power. Calpurnia, a prominent figure in the novel, takes Scout and Jem to the First Purchase Church. It is during this visit that we meet Lula, a vocal African American parishioner who initially makes Scout and Jem feel unwelcome.
Validating Lula’s Voice
At first glance, Lula may appear contentious and troublesome. However, it is crucial to listen to her perspective and understand the frustration that members of the African American community in Maycomb experience. Lula’s anger may not be communicated in a palatable way, but it signifies a need for self-empowerment and a desire for change. By focusing on Lula’s viewpoint, teachers can initiate critical discussions about racism and bias. Was it appropriate for Scout and Jem to bring Calpurnia to their church? What do Lula’s “fancy ideas and haughty ways” truly entail? Is her anger justified considering the racial climate in Maycomb? These questions encourage students to analyze the social dynamics at play in the novel and draw connections to real-world issues.
Echoes of Rising Voices
Lula is not alone in expressing her dissatisfaction. In Chapter 24, Mrs. Grace Merriweather, known as “the most devout woman in Maycomb,” engages in a conversation with her employee, Sophy, who is visibly upset about a verdict. This exchange serves as yet another opportunity to explore the rising voices within the African American community. By delving into these characters’ perspectives, students become more attuned to the voices that have historically been stifled.
Embracing Diverse Perspectives
As educators, it is our responsibility to give space to all voices in the classroom, including those of Lula and Sophy. By incorporating these characters into our lessons, we broaden our students’ understanding of racial injustice in the United States, all within the framework of one of literature’s most impactful novels. Let’s embrace the opportunity to explore these diverse perspectives and spark meaningful conversations that challenge biases and promote empathy.
- Ritchhart, R., Church, M., & Morrison, K. Making Thinking Visible. How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011.
- Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide. 1999.
- Common Core State Standards
About the Author:
Esshaki is an English and English as a Second Language high school teacher in the metropolitan Detroit area.
For more information on literary analysis and diverse perspectives in literature, visit 5 WS.