A Different Drummer By William Melvin Kelley Character Analysis Mister Leland

Harold Leland (or Mister Leland, as he is called) is the eight-year-old son of Harry Leland. Mister Leland is growing up at a time when changes are coming to the South within the novel, and, through his father, he is being taught how to reconcile his life to those changes. His education, however, has many flaws because he is being exposed to the contradictions that plague his father. Yet he is the only white character who seems to have a future in the new society. His education, it should be pointed out, reveals to him the role of the black, and he is beginning to understand the black man's treatment by the white majority. He is exposed to the racism of the whites with whom his father associates, and all of this leads him to ask some very pertinent questions about his southern culture. His ability to ask and answer these questions gives him a link with the future because these are questions that will have to be dealt with as society changes and blacks and whites come to view themselves differently.

Kelley seems to put the future of southern society in the hands of this young white boy for two reasons: Mister Leland is the son of a man who has the insight to recognize that the status quo will not persist indefinitely. Accordingly, Harry tries to prepare Mister Leland to live in the changing society; the young, after all, are better able to cope with change. Kelley, therefore, makes Mister Leland a symbol of the new society. Mister Leland will not be a panacea for race relations, for he still harbors many of the prejudices and attitudes of the older generation. But the important thing is that he is far more tolerant of other views and other people than most of the male population of Sutton.

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