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Grace Jeng

A Class Divided
Directions:
Choose one of the quotes below from A Class Divided. For the one you choose, make two
connections. First, explain how the quote is similar to something that happens in the novel To
Kill a Mockingbird. Second, tell how the quote relates to actual events in history.

Example:
Quote: “You’ll begin to notice that we spend a great deal of time waiting for brown-eyed
people.” –Jane Elliot
TKM connection: Although the prejudice we see in TKM is not against brown-eyed people, we
do see prejudice against brown-skinned people. More importantly, Harper Lee and Jane Elliot
show how prejudice and stereotyping thrive in their interdependence on one another. Jane Elliot
tells the kids that blue-eyed people are better than brown-eyed people, and then in an attempt to
spread prejudice she finds one example (in the quote above) of a brown-eyed person going
slowly and makes a generalization that all brown-eyed people are slow. This quote sounds like
something that the Ewells’ lawyer, Mr. Gilmer, would buy into. I could even imagine him using
it to bias a jury against a brown-eyed person. In Tom Robinson’s trial, Atticus says in his closing
arguments that the Ewells “have presented themselves to you gentlemen, to this court, in the
cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted, confident that you gentlemen
would go along with them on the assumption–the evil assumption–that all Negroes lie, that all
Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our
women, an assumption one associates with men of their caliber.” Atticus recognizes that the
battle he is fighting is one against a stereotype, a stereotype rooted in prejudice. If the jurors
believe that no Black men can be trusted around White women, then Tom Robinson (who is
Black) stands no chance of a fair trial. Atticus tries to remind jurors that each person is an
individual who deserves to be judged on the merits of what he has done, not on the stereotypes
with which society has afflicted him.
Historical connection: Just like the brown-eyed kids in the video, Blacks at the turn of the
century stood little chance of overcoming the stereotypes pinned on them by the people in power.
After Jane Elliot says that brown-eyed kids are slow, all she has to do to reinforce that idea is
point out those few occurrences when a brown-eyed person is actually slow, and soon everyone
in the room, including brown-eyed kids, begins to believe the stereotype. At the turn of the
century, Blacks were stereotyped as lazy. White racists simply reinforced this stereotype by
publicizing pictures of Blacks just hanging out not doing anything. Pretty soon, White people
came to believe that these pictures represented the truth about Blacks. Never mind that Blacks
for centuries had been the ones sweating tirelessly in the White man’s fields from sunup to
sundown. Never mind that no matter how hard some Blacks tried to land meaningful jobs, White
employers often refused to hire them for anything other than menial tasks. Never mind that many
Whites were lazy. By spreading a stereotype that many Whites wanted to believe, they were able
to fool themselves into believing a lie.

A Class Divided quotes


1) “The way they treated you it felt like you didn’t even want to do anything” –3rd-grade boy
2) Third-graders turned into “nasty, vicious, discriminating, little third-graders.” –Jane Elliot
3) “Brown-eyed people learn fast.” –Jane Elliot
Grace Jeng

4) When they were told they were superior, the students worked through the card pack more
quickly. Why had they been so slow without the collars? “We had the collars on.” –3rd-
grader
5) “Like a dog on a leash.” –3rd-grader
6) “I felt like I was a king, like I was better than them.” –3rd-grader
7) “I felt like I was better than them- happy.” –3rd-grader
8) “Oh, Great Spirit, keep me from judging another man until I’ve walked in his moccasins.” –
Jane Elliot
9) “You were trying to use the mere argument as reason for us being lesser. We couldn’t win;
if we argued, we were argumentive.” –corrections worker
10) “You don’t have to Black or Jewish or anything to have felt discrimination on both sides.” –
corrections worker
11) “I felt powerless, a sense of hopelessness.” –corrections worker
Grace Jeng

A Class Divided

Quote: Third-graders turned into “nasty, vicious, discriminating, little third-graders.” –Jane
Elliot
TKM Connection: In To Kill a Mockingbird, we see people who are normally gentle and
pacifists become a mob. As Atticus checks on Tom Robinson in jail to ensure that he is safe, a
mob consisting of many men from town including Walter Cunningham’s father confronts
Atticus. They accuse him of sympathizing with negroes and for siding with Tom Robinson
against the “whites”. Walter Cunningham (the father) is usually a pacifist, and is very kind,
generous and humble. He gave the children treats and firewood during Christmas time when
Atticus had helped Mr. Cunningham with some legal matters. However, when Walter was part of
a mob, his entire demeanor was threatening, and bordering on vicious. The false sense of power
the mob held over Atticus gave Walter encouragement to act this way. Similarly, when Jane
Elliot encourages a group of children to discriminate and develop prejudice against another
group of children, the “upper” group of children that are being encouraged feel empowered to
mistreat their classmates, even though some of the “lower” group of children were the “upper”s
friends.
Historical Connection: During the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s, mobs of townspeople
gathered to persecute random woman that they accused of being “witches”. The entire colony
hung on the words of a few “afflicted” girls who claimed to be bewitched by certain individuals.
The normally peaceful and serene colony “teetered on the brink of chaos” as they raged at the so-
called witches. Many accounts of the trials mentioned that many people who were normally
gentle and loving, screamed for the burnings and tortures of the witches. By thinking themselves
better than the witches, the townspeople showed violent characteristics.