Lecture 2: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. What is a theme?. a common thread or repeated idea incorporated throughout a literary work an author’s idea or message that may be deep, difficult to understand or even moralistic
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“Jim Crow” = character from blackface minstrel shows
Aug. 6, 1930. Two black men, Abram Smith and Thomas Ship, were lynched on suspicion of armed robbery, murder and rape. A third man, James Cameron, escaped.
“And shall such a creature … appeal to the law? Shall men cold-bloodedly stand up and demand for him the right to have a fair trial and be punished in the regular course of justice? So far as I am concerned he has put himself outside of the pale of the law, human and divine… Civilization peels off us, any and all of us who are men, and we revert to the original savage type whose impulses under any and all circumstances has always been to ‘kill! kill! kill!”
(1907, Sen. Tillman (IN), quoted in Gunning, Race, Rape & Literature, 5)
The idea of the black rapist who threatened white women expressed turn of the century anxieties about changes in US society: