The Yale Undergraduate Research Journal


In this senior essay, I reflect on how African American English (AAE) is represented and perceived in our society. I establish that it is a regular and systematic variety of English. I investigate two novels, To Kill A Mockingbird and Their Eyes Were Watching God and whether their depictions of AAE accurately reflect its systematicity. I equate inaccurate representation in the novels with the disrespectful treatment of AAE and its speakers in the United States currently. I compare the treatment of AAE in the novels’ trials to its treatment in State of Florida vs. George Zimmerman (2013), in which Rachel Jeantel’s testimony was severely criticized and unfairly dismissed. By exploring this thematic link between canonical American fiction and contemporary events, the wounds caused by linguistic prejudice can begin to heal.