To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
As minister of First Purchase Church, Reverend Sykes is an authority figure in Maycomb's African-American community. Like Santa Claus, he's knows if you've been bad or good: at the service Scout and Jem attend, he's not afraid to name names when it comes to the sinners in his congregation. And he's not above coercing the congregation into being good for goodness' sake, holding them hostage in the hot church until they cough up the ten dollars Helen Robinson needs to feed her family for the week.
It may seem weird to Scout and Jem, but it works. Lesson of the week: white people's ways aren't necessarily the only ones that work.
When Scout, Jem, and Dill watch the Robinson trial from the "colored" balcony, Reverend Sykes is the only African-American person who speaks to them or who is even named. Even when the entire balcony stands to honor Atticus after the trial, Reverend Sykes serves as the voice of the silent group, explaining what's going on not only to Scout but also to the reader. What effect does making a major mouthpiece of the African-Americans in the novel a considerate preacher have on how we perceive that community? Why do the other African-Americans, besides Calpurnia, lack much of a voice in the novel? And what might the novel look like from Reverend Sykes's point of view?