Blog on To Kill A Mockingbird
Write a blog post that compares the portrayal of one character from the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird with the way the character is presented in the stage version. Do you think the director and actors have altered the character in any significant way and if so does it change the way we understand the narrative or specific theme from the text?
Calpernia in the film To Kill a Mockingbird is a vital part of the Finch family and their dynamic. She is an African-American housekeeper who also provides structure and support to both the children and Atticus. Scout and Jem have a great love for her, and Atticus displays a clear level of respect for her as an individual. She is held in a high regard and can be seen filling a motherly role for the children. This is true particularly for Scout, where she is provided with a high level of guidance and a fair balance between being cared for and being disciplined. Calpernia is one of the few African-American characters in the film that is literate, and furthermore proves her motherly tendencies when she passes these skills onto Scout. She appears to be a faithful and long term member of the family.
To compare this representation to the stage version, Calpernia remains a positive female influence on the Finch family. However, in this version we obverse an even more strong representation of this character. It seems as though the director, through this new representation of Calpernia, has given a louder voice to African Americans. It was a refreshing and welcomed surprise watching the stage play when Calpernia was given more of a voice to further express her emotions, opinions and disapproval of racism. One particular scene that extremely shocked me was when Atticus told Calpernia “you’re welcome” for representing one of ‘her kind’. She later calls him out for this, adding an extra dimension to her character, that I feel as though should have been included all along. Her challenging his character is essential for the diminishing of racism, even if it is through questionably subconscious comments such as this. Calpernia’s actions are further developed when she mocks Atticus’ statement that their town Maycomb needs more time to overcome racism. She rebuts this by mockingly saying, “how much time would Maycomb like?”. This challenging of Atticus’ character is a repeating occurrence, to the point where it seems as though Calpernia acts as a sort of conscious for Atticus, making him question is thoughts and beliefs.
Another example of this was when Atticus stated that it was essential to be kind to everyone, no matter what they have done. Even to the point where he was imposing this mindset onto others. However, Calpernia points out to him that being kind to everyone means that you aren’t standing for anything, that he is then promoting bad behaviour and teaching his children that it is okay to treat people in that manner. Through the director and the actor altering her character, it has definitely made me reconsider the way in which I understand this text, and in particular the specific theme of racism throughout the novel. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing an African-American women stand up for not only herself, but for those who are underrepresented, it made me respect her character even more.
The most significant quote from Calpernia, in my opinion, was her discussing the trail of Tom Robinson, claiming that everyone in the courtroom “walked in monsters” and “walked out murderers”. This is a clear statement describing the people she is surrounded by, people who pose a threat to her and every other African American due to extreme racism and ignorance. Through this comment she is taking a stand and making her viewpoint clear and unapologetic.