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Du Bois’ idea of “double consciousness”details the theory of African American “twoness” in America. He argues that blacks throughout American history struggle with the idea of being both “black” and living in a society in which their oppression has been the foundation upon which the U.S. was founded upon. His concepts of life behind the veil of race and the resulting “the sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others," have become touchstones for thinking about race in America.

It is important to discuss Du Bois’ ideas of double consciousness by using the character of Calpurnia, the Finch’s maid, in To Kill a Mockingbird. The language used to describe Calpurnia lends itself to Du Bois’ theory perfectly; Scout, the daughter of Atticus Finch and the subsequent narrator of Lee’s story, depicts Calpurnia to her audience in an interesting way. Because of her naivety and immature understanding of a highly racialized society, she projects much of what she thinks about black society onto Calpurnia. Thus, Calpurnia’s sense of “twoness” derives not only from within herself, but from the idealized versions that the white people living in Maycomb have projected upon her. My research into double consciousness and its implications in TKAM adds to our understanding of race relations in one of America’s most beloved novels.


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19 Jul 2022
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  • Subject
    • English

  • Institution
    • Gainesville

  • Event date
    • 13 March 2020

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      Shannon Gilstrap