(We were asked to write a synthesis essay comparing To Kill a Mockingbird, to another source of a choice. I chose the movie Hidden Figures to answer the questions of how stereotypes changes people’s actions and the actions of others.)
Reflection: I was satisfied with my use of varied and complex vocabulary. I also had many great ideas throughout my essay. However, my ability of going deeper into my understanding and detail was lacking. I also sacrificed some clarity of my work trying to use more complicated vocabulary and grammar.
The Colossal Impact of Stereotypes
By: Maria Kim Block C December 18, 2018 Synthesis Essay
People’s actions are often greatly impacted when segregation has been caused by society’s destructive stereotypes. So what effect do stereotypes have on one’s actions and the actions of others? Director of the movie Hidden Figures Theodore Melfi and novelist of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee both based their stories on true events. Director Melfi based his movie on a book which was written by an author, Margot Lee Shettery, who met and interviewed the main characters of her book in person. His movie is set during the late 1940s to the mid 1950s in Hampton, Virginia when the civil rights movement was taking place. In the book, although not autobiographical, Lee incorporates details from her childhood into the setting. For example, the novel is based in Alabama during the 1930s, which was when Lee grew up. The Great Depression was prevalent, and some of the characters were heavily inspired by people in Lee’s life. The novel is about a family living in a racist community, as was Lee. During the novel, the father of the narrator who is a lawyer, defends a poor African-American man who is wrongly accused of rape. This brings out the true sentiments of the community, which was also demonstrated in Melfi’s movie. When three African-American women receive a job in NASA, the male dominated company opposes and treats the woman with contempt and refuse to treat them with respect. Mockingbird and Hidden Figures both portray ways that stereotypes affect one’s actions. Both stories portray how people, or even a whole society, can adapt their opinions and attitudes because of people that stand up for themselves. In Mockingbird, Scout’s subjective thinking lets her ignore her society’s stereotypes that lead her to be more stubborn, rebellious, and in addition, makes people around her realize the negativity of stereotypes. Meanwhile, in Hidden Figures, the three main characters, Katherine, Dorothy and Mary, change the original way of society and their stereotypes by proving the white folks in their community wrong and not letting rules and other’s beliefs control their boundaries. Subsequently, both the sources display how one can work towards breaking negative stereotypes that build walls in society.
Regardless of the differences in the ways the characters fight against stereotypes, both sources demonstrate the shift in behavior caused by labels. Lee shows how the narrator and main character of Mockingbird, Scout, unintentionally pushes past her society’s stereotypes to be accepted by her brother who, “Told me I was being a girl, that girls always imagine things, that’s why other people hated them so, and if I started behaving like one I could just go off and find some to play with,” (Lee 54). In addition, she utilises her youth and guilelessness to bring light to the incorrectness of the standard ideas to a group of drunk white men. Furthermore, the housekeeper of Scout’s family is a marvellous example of how African American people modify the way they act depending on what crowd they are with. This is exceptionally demonstrated when Calpurnia starts to converse with another member of her church and Scout thinks, “Again, I thought her voice strange: she was talking like the rest of them,” (Lee 152). Similarly, Melfi demonstrates the shift in behavior of the three African American women, Dorothy, Katherine, and Mary. During the scenes when the women are with their black community, they talk less formerly and appear to be able to express their true sentiments. Contrarily, when the three women are in their workplace controlled by white men, they conduct themselves in a different manner. The light skinned co-workers separate the women into a lower category the first time they notice them. This exhibits a couple of the drastic differences stereotypes can create amid a society. Judging from this proof, dissimilar people put in different categories adapt their everyday ways to conform into a certain classification.
Regardless of the way both sources exhibit how one can act differently due to their stereotypes, the method used to fight against stereotypes differ between the two. During Lee’s book, there is a trial in which the procedure to battle against one type of stereotype is conveyed exceptionally. The logic behind this is due to the fact that Scout’s father, Atticus, is a lawyer and he fights racism using his education and his power in court. While conversing with Scout, he explains it to her by saying, “Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win,” (Lee 101). Whereas in Hidden Figures, the women fight to change society’s stereotypes by proving them to being incorrect. Since they are black women in a significantly lower class than all their white male colleagues, they are treated accordingly in their workplace. However, they grind through the confines of their restrictions and fuel their determination with the thought of proving the ideas of what define them wrong. Through this motivation, they steadily climb up the ranks until they finally earn their rightful places in NASA. Stereotypes may cause one’s actions to alter but is clear that battling those stereotypes without the use of violence can be more effective and significant.
Stereotypes determine humans actions in a variety of different ways; however, in both sources, we discover how people can embrace and benefit from certain stereotypes. It is evident that in both sources, white people are further accepting of their stereotypes. A couple of characters in Mockingbird, like Bob Ewell and Aunt Alexandra are phenomenal examples of this. It is clear when Scout thinks about what Atticus told her, “The Ewells were members of an exclusive society made up of Ewells. In certain circumstances the common folk judiciously allowed them certain privileges by the simple method of becoming blind to some of the Ewells’ activities,” (Lee 40-41). Aunt Alexandra thinks that following the rules of her stereotypes are crucial. Therefore, due to her beliefs she tries to force them onto Scout by trying to get Scout to wear different attire and change her behavior to fit into what society expects her to be. Nevertheless, even though Scout does try to please her aunt, she does not completely fall into the stereotype’s boundaries and stay who she is. During Hidden Figures, the men working with the three women in NASA are more recognized they are put into smart, educated, rich, superior and better category. The men were born with more privilege and that is all due to stereotypes. The men greatly benefit from the society’s stereotypes and use it to their advantage to obtain a higher position and more money. There are many people that profit from their stereotypes; therefore, it is understandable that they enforce the importance and influence stereotypes have on the community.
In conclusion, notwithstanding the difference in the way both sources portray how to fight stereotypes, both Mockingbird and Hidden Figures show how stereotypes changes the way minorities act and how some can benefit from their stereotypes. It is extremely evident that people either adapt or rebel against stereotypes that confine them into a box and provide the majority of people with first impressions. There are countless exceptions to stereotypes and they could be perceived as offensive to some. Increased efforts to crack the chains that are keeping a great deal of humans from being born equal and having the same opportunities as people with much liberty can lead to a more peaceful world. Stereotypes create unnecessary blockades in the community which could otherwise be avoided. This is how the existence of stereotypes alters various aspects of multitudes of mankind starting from birth.
Hidden Figure. Dir. Theodore Melfi. Perf. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe. 2017. CD. 2018.
Lee, Harpor. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: Grand Central, 1960. Print.
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