Belonging Thematic Analysis: Romulus, My Father and to Kill a Mockingbird Paper
To Kill A Mockingbird, is a novel written by Harper Lee, first published in 1960. It was written as a critique of the social structure of the United States of America, especially in the southern states which were plagued by racism and intolerance. Harper Lee uses a young girl, Scout Finch, to narrate the story, allowing the reader to analyse the fictitious town through her innocent perspective – one which has not been corrupted by the racial prejudice so common in the society of that time.
Coupled with her uncompromising sense of equality and fairness, this perspective allows the reader to see the injustices and faults of society at the time. In many ways, To Kill a Mockingbird can be easily compared to the novel Romulus, My Father as they both have the common theme of belonging. The characters in both novels both exemplify and explore various aspects of belonging, such as the barriers which can lead to exclusion, relationships, social hierarchy, a sense of community, racial prejudice , the importance of family and those who do not belong in some way.
Although racism is an inescapable theme of both novels, they show us racial division can be overcome. To Kill a Mockingbird demonstrates this through Atticus Finch’s actions when he publicly defends a Negro man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a white girl. His ability to see past the colour of Tom’s skin and fight for justice allows him to be accepted by the black community. This is evident throughout the book, most clearly seen when his children, Jem and Scout, are overwhelmingly welcomed when the visit a Negro church although they are of Anglo Saxon decent.
The prevail over racial division is also observed when Reverend Sykes allows the children to sit up on the coloured balcony of the courthouse when there isn’t enough space on the floor, and the way the Negro onlookers of the trail silently stand up as a mark of respect when Atticus leaves the court. Similarly, Romulus, My Father conveys a similar message. The work of Romulus is an obvious way in which he can be seen gradually gaining acceptance from the Australian community. When he first moves to Australia, he is sent to work at Cairn Curran as a labourer, despite being a very talented tradesman.
His skill as an ironworker is overlooked by the government officials simply because he is a migrant. Later in his life however, he starts his own business and he ‘forges’ a reputation as a blacksmith and welder, gaining respect and admiration from the townspeople, challenging and ultimately changing their perceptions about the European immigrants they call ‘Balts’. His unquestionably high moral standing and devotion to his son also earn him understanding and acceptance from the community, despite being of foreign decent.
Another way in which connections can be made with To Kill a Mockingbird and Romulus, My Father is the way both texts explore the concept of a society broken up by various social classes. The initial chapters of the two books begin in illustrating the established social classes. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout’s first day of school clearly distinguishes herself, representing the upper class of Maycomb, from Walter Cunningham – a poor boy who cannot afford lunch, who represents the poorer working class.
Harper Lee later introduces Burris and Bob Ewell, grotesquely repulsive and abusive members of the very poor social class, and eventually Tom Robinson. Although Bob is such a lowly and despised character, the fact that the innocent Tom Robinson is convicted based solely on Bob’s word shows that the Negro community is placed even further below the Ewell family in the social hierarchy. This idea is taken to an extreme in chapter 23, when Aunt Alexandria forbids Walter Cunningham to come over for dinner, saying, “Finches do not associate with trash! Likewise, Romulus, My Father shows that on the other side of the world, Australia too has distinct social classes to which its various characters belong. In the second chapter, a distinction is made early between the workers at Cairn Curran. The Australians live in one camp and have the luxury of accommodating their family with them, whereas the immigrants have a segregated camp, which is for men only. A major way To Kill a Mockingbird and Romulus, My Father are linked is the way they portray characters who do not belong.
They show us that events can radically change the personalities of characters, so that they no longer belong in society. An example of this is Myalla Ewell, a seemingly innocent girl who’s isolation and responsibilities to her siblings distance her from the community. Jem describes her saying: “She must be the loneliest person I know”. Christine and Romulus were both introduced as mentally stable people, Christine highly intellectual and Romulus with an incredible strength of character.
However, Christine’s pressures of responsibility and Romulus’ failed relationship with Lydia are the catalysts which onset their mental illnesses and ultimately transform them into people who do not belong. Vacek is another character who is considered an outcast as the result of his experience, with Raimond saying, “They enabled me to see … Vacek, living among his boulders, as the victim of misfortune, in different ways broken by it, but never thereby diminished. ” Obviously, Boo Radley is another character who does not fit into the general public, despite wanting to.
His attempts at friendship show he is essentially a good person who desires to belong, but his cruel father and brother make this very difficult for him. Another significant link between To Kill a Mockingbird and Romulus, My Father is the relationship the children have with their father and how it develops throughout their experience together. Atticus and Romulus both try make strong relationships with their children, and as a result, are able to instil a strong sense of morality and understanding in their children. It is only through this loving relationship they can effectively raise their children with honest and just values.