To Kill A Mockingbird Controversies Literature Essay

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of the great classics of the last century, a beloved book that is studied in high schools across the United States-and yet this book beloved by many is also hated by some. Each year, the American Library Association holds its Banned Books Week to make people aware of the challenges libraries across the nation face, trying to keep controversial books on their shelves (Doyle 2). The ALA ranks To Kill a Mockingbird fourth on its list of “The Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2009,” on accounts of “offensive language, racism, and [being] unsuited to age group” (State News Service). People who find elements of To Kill a Mockingbird offensive often write to libraries requesting that the book be restricted or altogether removed from shelves. Incidents like these, with Harper Lee’s book and with many others, have led to the creation of Banned Books Week.

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Is it constitutional to ban books on the grounds that they contain material some people find offensive? According to the First Amendment of our Constitution, it is not. The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” (Noble). The Constitution makes it clear that book-banning will not be tolerated, but why did our founding fathers create this law? They created this law because the censorship of books is detrimental to society. When our founding fathers wrote the Constitution, they wanted to make sure and lay a strong foundation for our newborn nation to grow upon. The right to read
the books we choose is foundational to our democracy, and indeed, to our freedom. Why, then, do so many Americans still try to ban books they find offensive?
The answer is simple: the United States is a melting pot not only of different people, but of different opinions, making it impossible for a a writer to write a good book without someone disagreeing with the book’s themes. When people disagree with a book, many times they act to change the book or ban it from libraries altogether. These people believe they are doing the other a favor by removing objectionable content from the reach of the public. However, they are actually doing everyone-including themselves-a disservice.
For example, look at the case of Raymond English, who faced objections from multiple groups over the content of a history book he was attempting to write. Each group had a different complaint about the way their interests were represented in the book. Feminists disliked the portrayal of their movement, Filipinos disliked the portrayal of the annexation of the Philippines, politicians disliked the portrayal of the American economy, Zionists disliked the portrayal of Arab population statistics in the highly fought-over Palestine area during the early 1900s, and different church denominations disliked the portrayal of the Reformation (Noble 271-272). This series of stumbling blocks from multiple groups with different views stood in the way of the main purpose of the book, to provide a volume chronicling the history of the United States.
The problem we face is that America is too diverse, with too many opinions for everyone to agree with each other; our country cannot afford to censor every scrap of text that offends the sensibilities of one particular person or group, or we will have no books and no freedom of speech left. Without freedom of speech, the same groups that act to ban books would be unable to advance their causes; Feminists would not be able to advance womens’ rights, Filipinos would
not be able to campaign for their independence, and churches would not be able to express their views on the Reformation. Without freedom of speech, society is stagnant. Historical research shows a strong relationship between the abundance of books in a society and a society’s health; in fact, it could be said that books are the building blocks of society (Knuth 3). Books communicate ideas, and by reading about these ideas, we develop our culture.
Take, for example, the impact of reading on slaves in the South prior to the Civil War.
“The majority [of scholars] still agree that the basic result of literacy has been and is one of liberation” (Cornelius 2). Literacy leads to reading, reading leads to learning, and learning leads to freedom. For this reason, many slaveholders did not allow their slaves to learn how to read, fearing that learned slaves would revolt (Cornelius 12). Slaves who were taught to read and write often became leaders in the slave communities, giving organization to their culture and creating their own small society within a society (Cornelius 85). By reading the Bible, slaves demonstrated equal intelligence with their masters and gained a sense of identity as a distinct group of Christians; more importantly, they discovered in the scriptures that they were created equal and ought to be free. (Cornelius 3). The ideas that they found in the Bible gave them a yearning to be free.
Of course, this was only possible because educated slaves had access to such books with such ideas, that would reveal to them their enslaved state and inspire in them a desire to be free. What if they had had no books to read? Would they have discovered these ideas anyway, or would they have remained ignorant of the condition in which they lived? If books inspire us to think for ourselves and to seek freedom, is it possible that without them, we would lose that freedom?
The answer is yes. We need only look at history to see what a loss of important books does to societies. World leaders realize that for the people, literacy leads to freedom; to this end, many totalitarian regimes have sought to regulate their countries’ libraries. These governments attack books because they know books contain ideas, and by controlling ideas, they can control people (Knuth 3). The Nazis, in their efforts to create a pure race, took away the peoples’ books before they ever acted to kill the people themselves (Knuth 87). Communists in China followed a similar pattern.
When the Communist Party took control of China, they stomped out dissent by removing from the country’s libraries any literature that did not agree with them (Knuth 165). As with Germany, scholars who thought for themselves and did not go along with the social changes enacted by the government were imprisoned (Knuth 180). These books were replaced with Communist-supporting texts and literature that glorified the new government (Knuth 176). Mao Tse-Tung, the leader of this new government, was a writer who used his books-such as the Little Red Book that became his bible-to enthrall the minds of the Chinese citizens (Knuth 166-169). “Should not those [creative] impulses be utterly destroyed?” Mao said of the countless books confiscated and writers imprisoned at his command. “I think they should; indeed they must be utterly destroyed, and while they are being destroyed, new things can be built up” (Knuth 178). Without books, the people became willing slaves to a destructive regime.
Even though we are privileged to live in a democracy, with a Constitution that gives us the power to voice our ideas, it is all too easy to lose that freedom if we give in to the impulse to
censor books. Even a person fiercely opposed to book-banning may find on the list of “Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2009” some book containing content he finds
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objectionable. In such an instance, he might find himself reconsidering his views, thinking that
perhaps there are some basely vulgar novels out there that deserve to be banned. But consider that every time we ban one book, we give the opportunity for someone else to ban another book less deserving of the negative stigma. When we silence a voice that offends us, we open a window through which someone else whom we offend may silence us. In a nation of diverse opinions, sometimes we must bear offense in order to protect our right to speak our minds. The right to read, express our ideas, and disagree with the ideas of others is foundational to the freedom we have in our country. We cannot give away our freedom by giving in to the impulse to censor books, lest we become a nation as destructive as the Germany of World War II. Our freedom is far more precious than our feelings; it is the heart and soul of our nation. It is vital. It is cherished. It is our freedom to believe in God, without fear of persecution, the same freedom upon which our country was founded. We cannot destroy the books that are part of our heritage, such as Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, a book accused of racism that, in reality, is a passionate argument against racism. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but sing for us….that’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird,” Miss Maudie says to Scout Finch in Mockingbird (Sparknotes). Lee’s book is itself a mockingbird, one that we would be wrong to kill. When we allow such a book to be banned, we allow the destruction of something inherently good, and worse, we allow the destruction of our own freedom.
Therefore, we should hold on to our freedom; we should hold on to our books.

To Kill A Mockingbird; Atticus’ Speech

 In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus is a perfect example of the use of the Rhetorical Stance: pathos, ethos, and logos in a novel.  He illustrates these three things not only in the courtroom but throughout the novel. In the novel, Harper Lee uses the three to describe his speech in persuading jurors of the innocence of Tom Robinson from the accusations that he molested Mayella by exploiting his real identity as a believer in god. In his context, Atticus uses ethos in his speech in an attempt to get across to the jurors what he believes is meant by proclaiming one’s veneration of deities. This is an example of ethos for the reason that in ethos, you struggle to show up yourself as plausible in order to influence the audience. As Atticus continues to utilize ethos to influence the jurors about Tom’s innocence, he also begins to use pathos to manipulate his audience.

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Nonetheless, Atticus swears to the audience that he did not do the act, and the latter believes that he is innocent in his version of the story. In this case ethos is presented in the story as a means of showing credibility in convincing the audience. Atticus moves on in exercising pathos in his speech by highlighting the reality that the jury has a significant task to follow. In reminding the jurors of this essential duty, Atticus tries to give them a sensation of nobility that they ought to do the same for Tom Robinson. The technique used by Atticus to manipulate the jury’s feelings as well as convincing them is an exemplar of pathos since pathos necessitates the use of sentiment in an effort to convince the audience.
Taking a look into this scenario, it becomes clear that people in the society always try to defend themselves as being quite good but their immoral aspects are far worse than you ever thought. Atticus argues that Tom is indeed a good person and does not deserve to be treated like a criminal for he has not been convicted yet of committing the act of rape. He insisted that unless justice is practiced there is no legal evidence as to why Tom should be accused of raping the white woman.
Furthermore, Atticus tries to use pathos in emphasizing the importance of the jurors and their responsibility in the society. He projects a pauper as equal to Rockefeller and ironically an ignorant man as equal to the president. This statement is used to remind the jurors of their important duties. In this case, Atticus uses pathos in a more convincing manner, employing emotions in an attempt to convince the spectators. Atticus, thus, comes up with logos as his last option to convince his audience that Tom is indeed innocent of the charges. He, for example, said, “the state of Alabama has not produced one iota of medical evidence that shows that the crime Tom Robinson charged with ever took place” (Lee 126). In this context he tries to make Tom out to be innocent of the crime, saying that Mayella herself poses a counterargument to the accusations hurled against Tom thereby raising serious doubts to the evidences of rape by proceeding to proclaim that, “evidence has not only been called into serious question, but has been flatly contradicted by Mayella Ewell.”(Lee 128).
The usages of these simple facts are meant to convince his fellow jurors of Tom’s innocence. Nonetheless, the use of these facts helps him to proclaim some information to his audience. The utilization of those facts to persuade the jury of Tom’s blamelessness is an instance of logos. The grounds is that logos entails a speaker like Atticus trying to convince the listeners such as Tom’s judges by use of facts like the deficient in of facts against Tom and the gainsay proof from Mayella.
Logos simply means an appeal made to any authority. Atticus in his speech expostulates his audience about Tom’s charges. In the book, Atticus is made out to be a very mature person and that he has a stable character and able to cope with all unreasonable and the most emotional elements within May comb. It is very worse because Atticus in his side knows well that it is very difficult to win the case but on the other hand he does everything to fight amid the prevailing injustices in the society. This perfectly shows how he eagerly protects Tom from being imprisoned. “In the name of God, do your duty. In the name of God, believe Tom Robinson” (Lee 6)
The context shows how the earth we are living in today is full of greedy people using power to protect the less fortunate in the society. It is evident that although many people sympathize with Tom when he is accused unfairly until he was shot trying to escape the sad fate. He appeals to the jurors to be just, without prejudices. There is no more aridity or detachment in his voice. This shows that Atticus is in support of Tom who has been wrongly accused of the rape case. It also shows that people do not respect what Atticus is trying to prove to them. There are facts that jurors grew knowing that black people were very evil and not respectable in the society. Therefore, Atticus’ recent preaching about blacks could neither convince the jurors nor increase Tom’s chances of becoming innocent.
Atticus uses logos to deliver his speech claiming that the case should have taken place for the state have never delivered evidence that really confirms Tom to have ever committed the crime. In spite of this, Tom was bound to be judged guilty. These cases either are seen in the modern society where people believe in hereditary factors more than what they see in an individual. The lessons are the social stigma where people live in a frozen culture, where family name is taken as the symbol of one’s character. “Being southerners, it was a source of shame to some members of the family that we had no recorded ancestors on either side of the Battle of Hastings.”(Lee 3). The aspect of heredity is shown here in the early pages of the novel. Hereditary is taken as the aspect of ancestral belief where the stand of certain families in the society is the order of the day. This text talks of the wealthy as being the most important people for they have every resource. More so, racism has been portrayed to be killing the society. Atticus tries to defend the black race from being discriminated and taken as a bad omen to the society. He says that unless there is reason as to why the black are supposed to be treated in such a humiliating manner then they should seek for the best option that will bring Tom into justice for he is not guilty.
This implies that racism is a rampant social disease and there is no respect amongst the people who are living in this town. The word “Negro” is used to describe Tom who is a black person; this is a way of discriminating Tom. In the novel, Harper Lee expresses the merciless global racism. Not only are the colored people criticized by the whites but also the Radleys who are themselves part of the white society. The Radleys live differently from the rest of the Maycomb people. However, just by living in a different style, the people believed that they are different human beings. Even Jeremy described Boo Radley as “about six-and-a- half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that is why his hands were bloodstained”(Lee 13). This is rather a description suitable for monsters than a human being. This means that even the white people also despise one another and that they do not respect each other in any way.
Certain people from certain areas are seen to be bad people. For examples in the book, we learn that the southerners were regarded as shame to the society. The book also covers areas of immorality where Mayella is seen to seduce Tom and in the process the father caught her in the act. This evidence shows that Tom is indeed innocent. Nonetheless, revenge is seen when Bob vows to take revenge, spitting at the face of Atticus on the road for defending Tom. This is evident that there is no respect between the two families especially after Atticus represented Tom in the court. On the other side, Bob also tries to break into the presiding judge homestead trying to threaten the judge over the matter. On the other, we see Bob when he tries to attack Scout and Jem, the children of Atticus; they’re on their way home from school. This shows that he is not acquainted over the matter and he wanted to see that Tom is brought into justice and that Atticus should have not defended him in any way. The attacks among the whites show hatred because Atticus has helped save the case of Tom as being guilty. The whites take revenge at each other to show that they wanted to take center stage and convict Tom because he is a black person, not thinking that he is not guilty (Lee 131).
In conclusion, being influential in the society affects daily life in many instances. For example, the Cumming hams, a nice family although very poor refuse to take money thinking that this would lower their dignity in the society and thus they will be taken as beggars. This aspect shows how wealth is taken as the aspect of possession and that they should not take what belongs to the poor and what will make them lower their place in the society. However, the Ewell family backs the process and terms themselves as not in the same level to the Cumming hams family. In this aspect the Ewell family is seen to have benefited in the past three generations and thus have been looked down by the other society members. The process shows social stigma where the society members lack opportunities in the fear of being looked down by the rest of the society. It shows that social stigma has a greater effect on life, pursuit of happiness and level of economy. However, it is viewed from the book that some challenges have been encountered; for example, the use of the rape case was used as immoral. “Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don’t pretend to understand” (Lee 100). For example by calling Tom a Negro has an effect that they do not trust the black people at all. This has been challenged by the facts that Mayella’s seducing attitude towards Tom was a sure depiction of the rape case thereby accusing Tom who is innocent has a great meaning to the white people. “Now what did she do? She tempted a Negro. She was white and she tempted a Negro. She did something that in our society is unspeakable: She kissed a black man” (Lee 95)
In the other case, we learn from Mr. Cumming ham after his refusal to accept the welfare formally because this could have affected him and his children for he believed that what happened to one of the members was nothing compared to what had happened long time and it could be a repeat of the same. These words tell how the society believes in superstition that if something happened to other people in the past, the same will also happen to the coming generation if appropriate measures are not considered. On the other side, Atticus is seen as not to protect the white race by defending a black man over an allegation that he raped a white woman. The stigma revolves down to the family members.
In his opinion, Atticus opposes how Tom is being treated unfairly when there is no enough evidence over his case. Therefore he suggests that Tom should be treated in a fair manner because it’s not him that they are torturing but his small children at home. Atticus wants to say that by sentencing Tom the children will lose any means of living a decent life because the farther is the bread winner of the family. The white generations believe that it was supposed to be the whites that should protect the other whites unlike protecting the black race that was believed to be illiterate and ignorant of virtues. Scout is quoted saying, “I think there just one kinds of folks”(Lee 102). Scout doesn’t care if you are black, white, women or man. She implies that everybody is the same no matter what your skin color is.
However, the characters who are presented in the book cannot escape from their family stereotype. This means that some of the characters will never change their behaviors. Moreover, some characters are able to view their mistakes and try to change the stigma and the stereotype as revealed in the society. Atticus says this best with “Most people really aren’t that bad Scout, when you really look at them” (Lee 35). Prejudice is witnessed in several forms for example; some characters in the context suffer discrimination race where, social status, age and sex is exploited. Racism is seen to be the nature of the people living in Maycomb. In this aspect we see the white woman despising the black people terming them as niggers. This is a sign that the black people are not liked at all. It is important to understand that the white entity never would want the blacks to benefit from anything for they believe that the black people are illiterate and that they do not deserve anything of the kind.
Atticus Finch sets a standard of morality that no other character in the book comes close to correspondence. He is one of the few people, in the town of Maycomb, who understand the individual worth of a person regardless of the color of their skin. He is the only lawyer that is able to put some doubt in the minds of the jury. In most countries, courts are the great levelers. In the courts, all men are created equal. The judicial systems should make citizens believe firmly in the integrity of the courts and of their jury systems. They should make this a reality and a normal working experience. They are the citadel of justice, and for that reason, must never be corrupt. Innocent people should not be punished, but instead justice ought to be restored to them.
Work cited
Lee, Harper. “Atticus’ Speech”. To Kill A Mockingbird. New York, NY: USA. InfoBase Publishing. 2010. Print.

To Kill a Mockingbird Symbolism Essay

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, symbolism is used to show the innocence of the children and the innocence of some people. There are a few main children in this story. The main characters are, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, Jeremy Atticus, “Jem” Finch, Charles Baker “Dill” Harris, Boo Radley and Tom Robinson. Boo symbolizes innocence even though he isn’t a child anymore. The mockingbird also symbolizes innocence.

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The mockingbird shows symbolism because the mockingbird is innocent and all they do is sing beautiful songs. Killing a mockingbird is a sin. A mockingbird in To Kill a Mockingbird isn’t an actual bird, it represents innocent, nice, only could do good, easy target to people in the Book. Like Tom Robinson or Boo Radley. The mockingbird symbolizes underprivileged black people. They are innocent and never would harm anyone just like the mockingbird. Boo Radley is also innocent and would never harm anyone therefore the mockingbird also symbolizes him. Boo Radley never comes out because he does not want to face the prejudice and corrupt world. A mockingbird is a harmless bird that makes the world more pleasant. The mockingbird symbolizes Boo Radley and Tom Robinson who were both peaceful people who never did any harm. To kill or harm them would be a sin. Atticus tells Scout and Jem:

“i’d rather you shoot at tin cans in the backyard but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want if you hit ’em but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird”

The mockingbird symbolizes these two characters because it does not have it own song. The blue jay is loud and obnoxious the mockingbird only sings other birds’ songs. Therefore the mockingbird is seen through the other birds. The people of Maycomb only knew Boo Radley and Tom Robinson by what others said about them. both of these characters do not really have their own “song” in a sense and therefore are characterized bu other people view points. When Atticus tells Jem and Scout that it is a sin to kill the mockingbird, this refers to the actions directed toward Tom and Boo. It was a sin to dislike Tom and Boo bases on what others say about them. they were punished by the people in Maycomb because they did not have their own voice. There are many people without their own voice in society. As it is a sin to kill these without a voice. The symbolism reveals the prejudice and narrow mindedness of the citizens of Maycomb county their fears and the immoral things they do. The mockingbird has a very deep and peaceful meaning in the novel. It represents peacefulness, innocence and kindness. Characters such as Boo Radley can be compared to the mockingbird. Tom Robinson can also be compared to the mockingbird. In conclusion, the mockingbird represents peace, innocence and kindness.
Boo Radley went through his life never wanting to hurt a fly. He left gum, pennies, and wax dolls for Scout and Jem. He sewed Jem’s pants and left them easily. He also saved Scout’s and Jem’s lives while risking his own. Boo was a fragile and gentle person. Throughout the novel, Scout, Jem, and Dill are curious about the “mysterious” Boo Radley because he never comes outside from his house or associated with anyone in the neighborhood. The children are afraid of him because of all the stories they hear about him from the people in maycomb. For example, Miss Stephanie tells the children that while Boo was sitting in the living room cutting a magazine

“he drove the scissors into his parents leg, pulled them out, wiped the on his pants, and resumed his activities”

After hearing stories like these the children consider him to be evil. The kids assume more about Boo because he never plays outside or with anyone and therefore the children are not convinced otherwise. Boo becomes a game and they act out Boo Radley scenarios that they believed to be true. These stories were based on gossip that goes through their neighborhood. Boo Radley can be compared to the mockingbird in the title of the novel. It is made clear in ch.10 when Atticus and Miss Maudie explain that you should never kill a mockingbird because all it does is sing beautiful songs and never hurts anyone and keeps to himself. Yet the title is “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the townsfolk “kill” Boo Radley because he is shy and does not come out of his house. He was a kind person, yet he was persecuted by society for being shy and not coming out of his house. The grey ghost is another symbol for Boo Radley whose “face was as white as his hands and his grey eyes were so colorless” a description fitting to one of a ghost. At the end of the Book, Scout finally meets Boo Radley after he helps her and Jem escape Mr. Ewell. She finds that her beliefs about him are not true. She finds the songs that the neighbors were “putting into his mouth” were not true. In the end, Scout says that it would be wrong to put Boo Radley on trial for killing Bob Ewell because he did it in order to protect her and Jem. Scout sees that things look the same from Boo Radley’s porch as they do from her’s. therefore Boo Radley is a perfect example of a mockingbird and the situation he is in is a pefect example of the title of the Book.
Chopping wood and doing whatever he could for Mayella Ewell was Tom Robinson’s only crime. Just like Boo Radley Tom never harmed a soul. He risked his own safety by helping Mayella and he did it because someone needed him. It was like a mockingbird being shot down when Robinson was accused of raping Mayella. To the people of Maycomb county, Tom is just a “sorry negro”, who committed an unthinkable crime. Tom represents the black race in American society at that time and was a victim of racism. Like Boo Redleye, Tom Robinson is characterized by what the people see him as an evil beast. During the trial while bob Ewell testifies, he points to Tom Robinson and says

“I seen that black begro yonder rutting on my Mayella”

according to Mr. Ewell, Tom Robinson is an animal who tormented and violated his daughter. Throughout the trial, Tom is portrayed in his manner because of the racist neutrality of the people in Maycomb. Even though there is a sufficient amount of proof which shows he did not commit the crime, Tom is a black man who will be denied justice, Atticus reinforces this idea when he tells Jem
“in our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s. the white man always wins”
Generally this was the mentality of most Americans at the time. Black people did not have their own song, other people sang their song their songs based on beliefs about them. like Boo Radley people only knew Tom Robinson through what others said about him. Boo is the outcast of the neighborhood, but at the time, Tom Robinson was the outcast of the society. Throughout the trial, Scout and Jem believe in Tom Robinsons innocence. They see him for who they believe he is, and do not know enough about racism to be part of it. they did not believe the trial was fair because they believed there was evidence in Tom Robinson’s favor.
Tom Robinson is another character who can be compared with the mockingbird. He was a genuinely kind person who in the end is destroyed by his willingness to help mayella ewell. Just like a mockingbird, Robinson never hurt anyone. Yet, he was also persecuted by society for his kindness and his race. Tom Robinson is a mockingbird figure in the Book. In the end, mr underwood also compares a harmless songbird that was shot down by a senseless hunter. At the end of the Book, hoever Scout realizes the same about Boo Radley. When she finally meets him, she sees how unfair she had been with him. Boo contradicts everything that the chidren believed about him. The fact that no one realized the unfair treatment of Tom Robinson made his death that much more tragic. Tom Robinson was killed because of his kindness and the color of his skin.
Another person who shows symbolism Is Atticus Finch. Atticus Finch shows symbolism because he is seen as a hero when he kills the rabid dog. Jem and Scout did not know their father was such a godo shoorter and they were very surprised to see him shooting.

” with movements so swift they seemed simultaneous. Atticus’s hand yanked a bolt tipped lever as he brought the gun to his shoulder. The rifle cracked. Tim Johnson leaped, flopped over and crumbled on the sidewalk In a brown and white heap. He did know to hit him”

Atticus is a father in that he shows love to his children. Atticus always tells his children

“shooting a mockingbird is a sin because they don’t do any harm. They are innocent creatures that make music.”

Atticus is a lawyer, he is a faithful servent of justice for all people, black or white. His wisdom lies not in his education but in the way he raises his children and his knowledge of peoples attitude. Atticus showed his courage when he accepted the Tom Robinson case even though he knew before hand that it was a lost battle. He advises Scout and Jem not to get carried away by peoples provocation and sets the example when he does not react to bob ewells threats. Atticus is the only one who refers to people’s prejudice as ‘disease’. He accepts the Robinson case in an effort to fight against that, even though he is sure to fail. Atticus is the only lawyer in maycomb that would represent a blackman. Atticus is seen as a hero for he kills racism and prejudice, not allowing it to spread any further. In a conversation with his brother. Jack bout the coming trial and how to

“get Jem and Scout through it without bitterness and most of all, without catching maycomb’s usual disease”

Atticus is a hero model to the community. Attius Finch, as well as his two children, who follow in his footsteps.
A place that shows symbolism would be the tree outside the Radley hosue. Another place and object that shows symbolism is the snowman, the fire in miss maudie atkinson’s house, are examples of symbolism. The snowman that Jem and Scout made infront of miss maudie atkinson’s hosue one winter was an example of symbolism. There was not enough snow for the snowman so Jem used dirt for the foundation and then covered It with the snow that they did have. The snowman is symbolic in that Jem is trying to cover up the black man and showing that he is the same as the white man. The fire in miss maudie Atkinson’s house shows symbolism in that it shows the prejudice of maycomb. The fire melted the snow from the snowman and left nothing but mud. The fire shows that blacks and whites are nothing alike. The fire and the snowman are not the only symbols of prejudice. Tim Johnson is another symbol of prejudice. Tim Johnson represents prejudice, and how, like a rabid dog, it spreads its disease throughout the town.
The symbolism reveals the prejudice of the citizens of maycomb, the fears they have, and all of the dishonest things they do. It also reveals an attempt to get rid of these feeling in maycob by a hero to the community, Atticus Finch and his children who will follow in his footsteps. Symbolism is basically what the Book is about. If this book did not have any type of symbolism it wouldn’t be complete.

Prejudice Perverts Justice – To Kill A Mockingbird

In Harper Lee’s prize-winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus represents black defendant, Tom Robinson, in a publicized criminal trial against Bob Ewell for abuse and sexual assault to Mayella Ewell. The jury ruling makes the people who advocated Tom Robinson’s conviction and those who were influenced believe that he was innocent, question how prejudicial Maycomb County is, and how that affects how fair the criminal justice system in Maycomb is. Tom Robinson and Arthur Radley are victims of racial prejudice throughout the novel, and prejudice perverts justice through race, the resistance to change, and judgement.

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Despite that To Kill A Mockingbird was written in a 1930’s setting but was written in the 1960s, a time when the Civil Rights Movement was taking place, the people of Maycomb County had a hard time accepting anyone that was different from them, primarily black people. In chapter 9, Scout asks Atticus, “then why did Cecil say you defended [n-words]? He made it sound like you were runnin’ a still” (Lee, 100). It’s sad to see that black residents are judged on their skin colour instead of their actions and that even children have no respect towards black people because they were raised in a community with parents that purposely attend different churches than them. Or where you could never see a black man ordering a white man because they have fewer privileges. Or where their parents cause societal division through their negative words in front of them. Secondly, in chapter 12, Atticus says to Aunt Alexandra, “you know, it’s a funny thing about Braxton, he despises Negroes, won’t have one near him” (Lee, 209). This quote demonstrates that black people are inferior to white people. One shouldn’t socialize with them because their skin is like a disease. As soon as one communicates with someone, other than a Caucasian, they’ll catch the disease and be judged by the town too. Since Atticus defended Tom Robinson, a black male, in a publicized criminal trial against Bob Ewell, a white male, the majority of the town criticized him and his family’s ancestry too. Yet, this doesn’t make sense because Atticus defended a “humble” Negro who felt sorry for a white woman that was alone and needed help with her father’s house once and awhile. All he wanted to do was support his family and feel appreciated in Maycomb. But once the jury looked at his complexion and saw that he was a black man, they assumed he lied, that he was immoral and that he couldn’t be trusted around women. No wonder they were unable to change.

Furthermore, routines are apart of everyone’s lives. Although change is unavoidable, it can be difficult to accomplish. Depending on one’s personality and attitude, some children are more dependent on their parents than others. Scout’s lucky to have a father that taught her to respect diversity and everyone (even those that talk bad to her about her father). In chapter 9, Atticus told Scout, “Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win” (Lee, 101). He implies that even though racism has been around for a hundred years, someone needs to try to change others for the better. Even if Atticus doesn’t win the trial, he’d still have told the jury that some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, and that some Negro men cannot be trusted around women, black or white. White men can perform the same crimes as some black men because overall, there’s no spiritual difference between Negroes and Caucasians, since they’re both human beings. Therefore, Tom Robinson could be innocent, and Bob Ewell could be guilty. But based on Atticus’s concluding statement, the lack of evidence that proves Tom was guilty, and the amount of evidence that proves Bob did this unspeakable crime, one can say that Tom had a stronger case than Bob did of being innocent. Secondly, in chapter 11, Jem gets mad at Mrs Dubose for makes some disrespectful comments on his father. Jem’s punishment is to read to Mrs Dubose for 2 hours every day for a month, but as time went by, he noticed that she was making him stay longer and longer every day. He soon found out that Mrs Dubose was a morphine addict and that his reading helped her resist morphine. Unlike the previous argument, this isn’t an example of the resistance to change from racial prejudice, but the urge to change from chemical dependency. In the text, Atticus says, “she meant to break herself of it before she dies, and that’s what she did” (Lee, 148). Mrs Dubose didn’t want to die an addict, so she resisted morphine’s curb for several weeks until she was sober. She was a strong woman that did everything she could to succeed, even when her addiction wasn’t on her side. In a way, that’s exactly what Atticus tried to do, even if the people of Maycomb County didn’t agree with him, he still did everything he could to win Tom’s trial. The jury was afraid to let Tom Robinson go free because he was an innocent black man and accused a guilty white man of his own deed. They chose to make a false accusation because they didn’t want to change the judicial system in front of multiple Caucasians. Yet, all the Supreme Courts in the United States of America are “created equal”? These are lies.

Lastly, prejudice perverts justice through judgement. Look at Arthur. He was charged for “disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, assault and battery, and using profane language in the presence of a female”. He was released to his family’s custody and he wasn’t seen again for 15 years. Because of this, people made stories about him that made him sound like a vicious animal. When in reality, he was a caring, shy, man. People like Ms. Stephanie Crawford told fake stories about him like the scissor incident: “Boo was sitting in the living room cutting some items from ‘The Maycomb Tribune’ to paste in his scrapbook [when] his father entered the room….Boo drove the scissors into his parent’s leg….and resumed his activities.” (Lee, 13). Boo isn’t a psychopath with a mental disability, he cares about Scout and Jem, and he chooses to stay inside. If these rumours were true, then he wouldn’t have stabbed Bob Ewell when he was trying to murder Scout and Jem after they finished Trick or Treating; and he wouldn’t have sewed Jem’s pants when they ripped after they trespassed his property to see what he looked like. Yet, still, the entire town (besides a few people), believe this event happened. Secondly, in chapter 20, Dolphus Raymond said, “when I come to town…. If I weave a little and drink out of this sack, folks can say Dolphus Raymond’s in the clutches of whiskey-that’s why he won’t change his ways” (Lee, 268). Dolphus Raymond hides a can of coke in a sack that makes him look like he’s drinking alcohol because he doesn’t want people criticizing his lifestyle. He divorced his Caucasian wife for his African American mistress, and he has three mixed children with her. Since he knows how the residents of Maycomb are, he chooses to put on a show and give them what they want so that he won’t get judged for his life choices. Moreover, this passage depicts that children learn to criticize people from what they see and believe. Because of Mr Raymond’s reputation, Scout thought that he was an evil man and that Atticus and Aunt Alexandra wouldn’t like it if they became friends. Little did she know that Mr Raymond wasn’t an alcoholic, but a man managing to survive in their judgmental neighbourhood. One wouldn’t be surprised if the jury made their decision on whether Tom Robinson raped and abused Mayella Ewell strictly on rumours they heard in the neighbourhood or through the daily newspaper.

In conclusion, prejudice perverts justice through the race, the inability to change, and judgement. Reason 1, race: the jury might have accused Tom Robinson of raping and abusing Mayella Ewell, instead of Bob Ewell because he was a black man opposed to a white man; and supportively, black people do bad things compared to white people. Reason 2, the resistance to change: the jury might have sent Tom Robinson to jail because they were afraid to do what was right in front of a half-Caucasian crowd, despite the amount of evidence that proved he was innocent. And reason 3, judgement: the jury might have let Bob Ewell go free because they chose to focus on his appearance vs. the truth of what he did to his daughter. It’s all composed of rumours and the idea that what you believe is the only thing that’s right. Because everyone knows that Negroes “don’t deserve” the same privileges as Caucasians. They’re “worthless” and inferior compares to them. But that’s 100% debatable in To Kill A Mockingbird.

Work cited

Lee, Harper. To Kill A Mockingbird. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 1982.


Racism in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee

Racism is one theme which is hugely illustrated in “To Kill A Mockingbird”. Harper Lee has been very successful in being able to elicit racism. The most unique and significant approach she uses to reveal racism is that she tells the story through the point of view of a child. This helps her very much to bring out this important theme as she shows Scout being in a learning process and just being able to learn the differences between right and wrong. Scout is a very strong character as she is only a child when she has to show her maturity about a very significant social issue. She has to face prejudice herself for making the right choice of going against society and not being racist. Lee has also used Atticus who has been portrayed as a guiding and supporting character. She has portrayed him to morals and courage to do the right thing. Atticus always treats Scout as a mature lady rather than a child, and has very well put the differences in her mind between right and wrong and given her power to deal with society.

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Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” is set in Maycomb, in the southern state of Alabama during 1933-35. This was the time of the Great Economic Depression. Racial prejudice was particularly strong in the Southern States though there had been an abolishment of slavery. Blacks were still considered as slaves to whites. The white people couldn’t go against the racist ideas, superstitions and the general state of injustice that they had been practicing for their whole lives. Racism was at its peak during the years of “To Kill A Mockingbird”. Rather than the abolishment of slavery causing harmony between whites and blacks it had worsened the divisions between them. Maycomb could be considered as the paramount example of a town containing much prejudice, discrimination and injustice.
The beginning itself, consists of a quote that portrays racism as being “against ones dictum” and “not for the glory of god”. This is done very subtly to leave the idea of negativity toward racism.

“Simon made a pile practicing medicine, but in this pursuit he was unhappy lest he be tempted into doing what he knew was not for the glory of God, as the putting on of gold and costly apparel. So Simon, having forgotten his teacher’s dictum on the possession of human chattels, bought three slaves and with their aid established a homestead on the banks of the Alabama River.”

This quote shows that the book starts off with negativity towards acts of racism. Racism is considered to be unholy and against the morals of people. This is the case even in the time of Simon Finch (Scouts grandfather). Even this is narrated by eight year old Scout she has a wholesome view of the society. By the end of the book we can perceive that Scout has had a change in perspective about society and whether she chooses to be racist or not.
The racism element is notoriously brought across by Lee. Lee merely indicates that race was an issue people faced in America at that time. It is introduced very slowly and subtlety. The book is written so that every once in a while the issue of race and the characters views on it are brought out. For example, on page 94 of the novel the main character, Atticus refers to racism as “Maycomb’s usual disease”. This comment reveals to the reader that Atticus is against racism. The scene and characters are just being introduced. From that one comment you are introduced to Atticus’s views on race and racism. He refers to it as a disease because it is very hard to get cured from being racist; he also wants to compare how racism spreads like a disease.
Another quote that indicates that Atticus is a very strong multidimensional character is located on page 35 of the book. “First of all, if you can learn a single trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view- until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” This quote is not only important because it shows the reader how Atticus understands everyone’s perspective and what they are going through, but also it shows how he is a guiding force for his daughter Scout and teaching her to be able to perceive the society in a better manner. He gives her a level of maturity in thought that not all the children of her age have.
Lee has shown this novel to be about human dignity and the right to be left alone to live as you please. It’s also the story of growing up and learning some very harsh truths about life. One of the “much needed lessons” in this book is about the acceptance and equality of everyone in a society, the acceptance of race and how to deal with racism. Harper Lee has been very successful in portraying this.
Harper Lee concentrates on bringing across these points and characteristics, and introduces and illustrates the townspeople’s personalities, history and attributes. The main plot of the novel is not brought out till the later parts of the novel, when the reader feels they know the characters. Harper Lee might have attempted to make the reader feel like they are part of Maycomb’s society. As mentioned, everyone in Maycomb knew each other, and the reader knows almost all the citizens (characters) of Maycomb, and begins to feel like he is part of the society. This would result in the reader becoming more involved and ‘wrapped up in the story’.
In the novel, the black community is portrayed very positively, as they are shown as reacting in an absolutely non-violent way to the racist abuse that they suffer, behaving passively and even still helping white people. In this way, they are portrayed as ‘heroes’. Despite some dispute over just how realistic this view was, this was undoubtedly Harper Lee’s intention as to what we are meant to think of the black community. The novel is about a white man defending a black man in court, something considered “wrong” at the time and something that would have made the lawyer a public enemy. It is narrated by a little girl and this gives the novel an interesting take on racism, as she does not understand why the black people are being ostracized.
Maycomb society has been presented as two split communities, attempting to join together, but failing. Every aspect of the book somehow comes down to the society of Maycomb. Also, class and family history is an important part of tradition to many of the people in Maycomb. When Aunt Alexandra comes to visit, she feels it her duty to put upon Scout the importance of her roots. Aunt Alexandra forces Atticus to explain to Scout that she is “not from run-of-the-mill people, but the product of several generations’ gentle breeding”. Aunt Alexandra feels that people are born into a certain class, and should, therefore, behave accordingly. If you are born into a high class, you will always be considered high class, and if you are born into a low class, there is no use to strive for anything higher. The result is that families are repeated in each generation with similar attitudes and character shadings. The objective is obviously to refine the classes and keep them pure. Aunt Alexandra and many other men and women in Maycomb praise the distinction of class. To them, having high blood is seen as sacred and there is no way to obtain it but by birth.
Harper Lee also presents Maycomb society as a place of gossip. As there was not much to do, in terms of amusements, people would talk and spread rumors about other Maycomb residents. Characters similar to Miss Rachel, the town gossip queen, appear to have nothing better to do than to live through the people that they talk about. The ladies in the Missionary Society would like others to consider that they care about them, but in reality, their meetings soon turn towards the most recent story going around town. This is one aspect that spreads prejudice throughout the society. Gossips and rumors change the point of view of people and this is not always in the good way as sometimes it turns people against one another and people become more prejudiced.
In the beginning parts of the book you read about how Calpurnia looks after Jem and Scout whilst their father Atticus is at work. You read about how Atticus is very busy during that summer. You do not realize why until later. As I have said the early parts of the book are spent introducing you to Maycomb and its inhabitants. You later discover that Atticus is defending a Negro in court, you soon realise he is willing to risk his reputation and friendship of many to get justice. Many in Maycomb think that Atticus is putting shame on the white community by defending a black man. They are totally against black people, and are willing to see an innocent black man suffer and die in his struggle for equality and justice. Despite the majority in Maycomb discriminating against the blacks there are a few people who can see that the colour of their skin doesn’t change anything. However, apart from Atticus, no one is willing to put their reputation and friendship with many white people on the line. The majority over power and pressure the minority of un-racist people into not speaking out for the black community. The anti-black movement seems to overpower and intimidate the people who want equality in their society; everyone apart from Atticus is prepared to make a stand. Atticus felt it is duty to protect and serve Tom Robinson; this is brought out in a conversation with Scout, on page 111.

“This case, Tom Robinson’s case, is something that foes to the essence of a man’s conscious- Scout, I couldn’t go to church and worship God if I didn’t try to help that man”

This shows the reader that Atticus would feel tremendous guilt if he does not defend Tom Robinson. He would be going against his conscience if he were to not go with what he thought was the right thing to do, and it didn’t matter how much prejudice he would have faced for doing the right thing. He may be able to live with the comments and unfriendliness of the white people in Macomb but he would not be able to live with himself if he did not defend that man.
Scout goes on to say, “Well most folks seem to think that they’re right and you’re wrong”
Harper Lee uses this line to show that the majority of Maycomb’s population doesn’t think a white man should protect a black man. That line brings across and portrays as a racist society. When I say the majority I mean nearly all of Maycomb, even the school children are racist. This is because most, if not all are brought up in a racist household. Thus resulting in the children saying such things as “my ma says that your dads a nigger lover”
Although Harper Lee has also mentioned this comment because she wants to illustrate the relationship that Scout and Atticus have, where Scout being confused in her thought as she is a only a child when she has to show maturity and make a decision of not being prejudiced and Atticus having to channel her into doing and thinking what’s right.
Even the children in Maycomb are racist towards the black people. This is because they are brought up in a racist society and since the beginning itself racism is engraved within them so deep that it becomes extremely hard to follow ones conscience. Few are not, and even fewer are willing to speak out and do something about it (Dolphus Raymond for example). Many are not willing to risk everything to make the black people’s life a better one. It is an example of the majority over powering the minority, forcing many to deny their beliefs and support with the blacks, in order to be accepted a part of Maycomb’s society, Maycomb’s racist society, only Atticus in the beginning part who is willing to follow and carry out their beliefs and support for the black people. He will go against the racist society of Maycomb in search of justice and equality.
Although in his own family he has racist members. Aunt Alexandra is prejudiced towards Calpurnia, the housemaid of the Finch family, because she is a Negro. She believes that Calpurnia is a bad influence to young Scout and Jem, taking into no account that Calpurnia has been a mother figure to the children since their early childhood. When Aunt Alexandra holds her missionary tea party, the ladies talk about the black community:
“the only reason I keep her is because this depression’s on and she needs her and a quarter every week she can get it.” comments one of the ladies. She pities her piteous Negro maid: “I tell you there’s nothing more distracting than a sulky darky.”
Thus criticized Mrs. Merriweather, one of the ladies at Aunt Alexandra’s missionary tea party. The term “sulky darky” is used in a racist tone as they feel that the Negroes degrade them.
Here we can also see the social status brought into the picture. As illustrated if the ladies are racist or are presented in a manner where they show dominance over certain people they are considered to be well accepted in society and are given respect for doing so.
Mrs. Merriweather is racist, following stereotypes and tradition. The reason for her racism is that it is inbred. She has been brought up believing in a narrow-minded view and cannot, or will not, see the innocence of the Blacks. Mrs Merriweather will believe what she wants to believe, and refuses to take in others’ views. This is a substantial schism between the two races.
Certain incidents depict how racism affects the characters and brings conflicts in their perception of society. Such as when Mr. Cunningham and a few other resident of Maycomb come to kill Tom Robinson but Atticus doesn’t let them and they would harm Atticus as well.

“I was playing with a spoon. That was enough.”(1)

The theme racism is very prominent throughout the plot from the beginning to the end. Since this plot is depicted through the perspective of a child racism is presented in its starkest and most honest face. By doing this the author has been able to give a unique perspective to racism.
This incident is a very good example of racism because it shows that Scout has difficulty in understanding the changed nature of Mr. Cunningham. She always perceived that he was a man who had always been nice to the Finch family and he was in Atticus’s debt, not because he owed Atticus money, but because Atticus had been merciful to him and saved his dignity. She failed to comprehend the change in his character.
Mr. Cunningham was facing conflict in his persona. He couldn’t decide whether or not to flow with the tide or go against it and face discrimination himself. He chose the easier path for that night, not the right one but a simple human act of friendship and acceptance brought him back to his principles and he left with the mob. It only took an act of acceptance from a little girl. Thus Atticus brought to Scout’s notice that Mr. Cunningham was only a part of a mob that night not an individual logical thinker. Scout was the one who transformed him into thinking logically as an individual. A mob is not a human and thus cannot have the logic or understanding that an individual can. The mob of the white community abandoned its individuality to look down on the black community.
In the same way the black community is guilty for being discriminatory toward the white community.
This is well depicted in the incident where Calpurnia takes Scout and Jem to the black church.
Blacks had always been regarded as lower class due to tradition and the fact that they were unimportant according to the whites; they were sold and bought as objects. The Whites’ attitude to the Blacks has put up a barrier between the two races. However the prejudice works both ways. The Black community also feels prejudice towards the Whites. This is experienced when Calpurnia takes the children, Scout and Jem, to her local church:
“You ain’t got no business bringin’ white chillun here – they got their church, we got our’n.” rattles Lula, a Black lady part of the church community. Not only the Whites, but also the Blacks can reinforce the strong racial barrier, clearly shown by Lula. They both even have their own, separate, place of worship. Because the Whites have and are treating the Blacks in this unsatisfactory manner, the Blacks have built up hatred for the Whites. I feel that these two impressions lead to a self-reinforcing circle where either side believes the other race is completely different in attitude and behavior.
Another event that shows that the racial prejudice is so extreme is in the courthouse. The Negroes had to allow the Whites to enter the courthouse before them as if the Whites were royalty. And, in the courthouse, they have a different seating area, away from the Whites. This is a physical barrier that also reinforces the non-physical barriers, and causes the Whites and Blacks to be separate.
The case with Atticus defending Tom Robinson also shows the prejudice that is so prevalent in Maycomb at the time. Atticus’s argument had proven Mayella wrong and had the jury out for a long time. But despite the evidence shown and the logic, Tom Robinson was still sentenced guilty.

“I ain’t ever seen any jury decide in favour of a coloured man over a white man”

It went against the nation’s zeitgeist to have a Negro sentenced innocent over a White. During the 1930’s, the time in which ‘To Kill a Mocking-Bird’ is set, it was always the Whites that came first; Black Americans were automatically seen as the lowest of human beings. However, Dolphus Raymond is also considered as of a lower rank. He is a character in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ that is married to a coloured woman. Dolphus Raymond is a white man and has mixed race children with his wife. The whole of Maycomb does not accept his family:

“once you have a drop of Negro blood, that makes you all black.”

This is the reason why Whites, including Scout and Jem, do not accept his children, let alone his wife.

“They don’t belong anywhere. Coloured folks won’t have ’em because they’re half white; white folks won’t have ’em ’cause they’re coloured, so they’re just in-betweens, don’t belong anywhere.”

This shows how distinct the divisions are. You either have to be one or the other. Because the two races, Whites and Blacks, will not accept each other, they will not accept anyone if they have the smallest interest in the opposite race. This is one reason why nobody even fathoms about having interracial relations. It is such an unapproachable condition that even when someone wants to be unprejudiced they are forced not to fallow that path. And this is what gives strength to the racial barriers.
Racism was an open and obvious issue in Maycomb society; overall the white community hated Negroes, because they were not able to accept the cultural and traditional background the Negroes hailed from. The white community judged the black community by the skin color, not by the content of their character. ‘They did manage to go to schools; the standard of education was very limited, and above all they were treated with contempt by most of their white neighbors, frequently being referred as ‘niggers’ and ‘trash’. It was this lack of education, knowledge and qualification was what that suppressed the blacks from the whites, making the whites dominant and the blacks vulnerable. The blacks found it hard to get jobs because of their lack of education so they had to have menial jobs under the whites. The whites took advantage of their innocence.
Throughout the novel, the black community earns our respect in many ways. Their unfailing passive stance to the racism they faced in their everyday lives provides a great admiration for them, as not many people could take abuse such as “Come here, nigger, and bust up this chiffarobe for me, I gotta nickel for you.” Or “I seen that black nigger yonder ruttin’ on my Mayella!” These cusses were the kind of language a black person there and in those times could expect when talking to a white person. They simply accepted this and did not complain. They were of course also driven to this civility by the knowledge that, should one of them put so much as a toe out of line, they would be taken to court and sentenced to death, or lynched on the spot.
This is where Lee shows the significance of language in the depiction of racism. The black people being referred to as ‘negro’ or ‘nigger’ in day to day dialect, was a part of the southern vernacular. This demonstrates how subtly racism was engraved within everyone’s subconscious, while the black people having to meekly tolerate this without refute.
As well as that, they even willingly helped white members of the community, for example, Tom Robinson helped Mayella Ewell daily without once refusing or even complaining. He didn’t mind being helpful in this way, even when he did not have to be. This was highly commendable because the character of Tom demonstrated that he reacted to the racism of the whites in a positive manner, by lending a friendly hand. He was just being nice; though the Ewell’s had done nothing to earn this good treatment, they had always been nasty and racist towards Tom and the rest of the black community.
Atticus, one of the main characters in the novel, can also be known as an outsider, or a loner of some sort. This is because he is going against the recognized way of life in Maycomb and everyone else. It was unjust to defend a Negro against a White; to say that a Negro is innocent and that a White is guilty. Not many people supported Atticus and his beliefs that everyone is equal. Many people referred to him as a ‘nigger lover’. We can say that he is an individual who is tolerant, kind, fair-minded, and courageous for defending a Negro: he isn’t biased. Even though he is a man of goodness it is not recognized by his sister, Aunt Alexandra, and her fellow friends:
“Mr. Finch, there ain’t nothin’ you can do now, so there ain’t no use tryin’.” comments one of the ladies, implying that there would be no point in even trying to prove the Negro wrong as the White race will be put in first position.
We have seen that these prejudices and divisions are very much due to tradition and stereotypes. The black community isn’t treated with respect because they were known as slaves and this novel portrays the unfairness between the two races. Reading ‘To Kill A Mocking-Bird’ may make one feel that there is a lot of prejudice and separation during the 1930’s. Even though the Blacks were thought to be unfriendly and inhuman, Harper Lee makes them out to be very warm and loving indeed. We see Calpurnia to be knowledgeable by the way she has brought up Atticus’s children, showing that she is loving; she has brought up the children in such a way that Scout recognises as a mother figure. She is definitely not a bad influence on them and does not show signs of racial discrimination, to the children or Atticus.
Harper Lee has also made us see that Tom Robinson is not guilty of the rape charge and that he too is innocent and also caring. It was highly unlikely at the time for the Blacks to pity the Whites as the Whites treated the Blacks so badly that they despised the Whites. However Tom Robinson did feel sorry for Mayella Ewell. Even though he was being accused of a crime that he didn’t commit and was deemed guilty, Tom Robinson felt sympathy for Mayella. Harper Lee has used this novel and the fact that there was prejudice to give out a positive effect. It has made us see that the Negroes aren’t what the Whites had thought they are. In fact we see a more caring and gentle side to the Black community.
In the trial, Tom Robinson had so much evidence pointing out that he was innocent but he was still charge guilty. Why? Because he was black, it was as simple as that. There was nothing that Atticus could have done. Even if there had been a mountain of evidence against Bob Ewell, Tom would still have been found guilty. In the world back then, in Maycomb county, people were racist and they didn’t think it was wrong because they didn’t know any better. You even see Scout slowly become one. She says things like, ‘He’s just a nigger.’. Racism isn’t even rebelled against in Maycomb by the blacks because they too, don’t know any better. They live their lives in appalling conditions but they don’t realise that as they have never lived any other way. Unfortunately, people took advantage of them not caring what happened to them because they were just ‘niggers’. Unfortunately, in some parts of the world today, things haven’t changed.
In ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, there are a lot of racial inequalities, however the author has cleverly used this fact to give out a positive effect. The White race was thought to be at the top of the hierarchy and that they were superior in all cases. Theoretically this is true, however the Ewell family was portrayed to be no different to the Negroes. And as we read through this novel, we sense that each character holds the potential in a playing a part to break down these barriers. As stated, baby steps are the paths of having hope.
Throughout the story, people that are unlike the majority, get hurt. They are given obstacles that they have to overcome in order to survive. Some people in the world can survive these obstacles, and there are some that just give up. By fighting for your rights, people start to realize that character is the important attribute to a person. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee showed me that the people with differences are not always doing things the wrong way. It is the majority that may be going at it all wrong. She also encourages the theme “Appearances may not lead to reality” and gives some good examples for it.

Gender Stereotypes in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’

To fully understand the complex characters portrayed in To Kill a Mockingbird, one must take a flashback to the sleepy Southern town, Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930s. A flashback is defined as a transition to an earlier event or scene that interrupts the normal chronological order of the story. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee describes a small, Southern town in the midst of the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s. Lee specifies the fact that gender roles and ethnical stereotypes are major themes that are tied together during the story’s time period in Maycomb, Alabama by painting vivid pictures of her characters that she creates.
Scout Finch, the narrator, holds the first complex gender role found in To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout is a tomboy with feminine expectations pressured upon her. She often rejects and rebels against the proper teachings taught by her Aunt Alexandra, Mrs. Dubose, and the other white, upper-class, southern ladies of Maycomb County.
During the 1930s, the ideal little girl was an image of pure femininity. Great pressure was placed on her training to be a lady or “a proper Southern belle” (Johnson, 144). Training was mainly focused on language and dress. A little girl never wore slacks or jeans. Only skirts and dresses with appropriate hats and gloves were worn. Scout was very foreign to this type of attire. Posture was very important for little girls to observe. This meant that rough play was not allowed. Little girls typically played with dolls, played house, and had tea and dress-up parties. A proper young lady learned to dance properly in white gloves and a long dress and was part of the many socialite clubs of society. It was expected of little girls to be very soft-spoken and refined in their speech. No proper little girl should use coarse language or improper grammar, as Scout often did. The older women of the town often gave private lessons on how to speak properly. (Did Scout go to those lessons?)

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Scout is often ridiculed by the other ladies, who were southern belles of society. One of the chief conflicts in To Kill a Mockingbird is over Scout’s failure to show much promise as a proper southern lady. She loves to play with the boys, fight like them, and dress like them. One of the few occasions when Scout wears a dress, rather than bib overalls, is a meeting at the Finch home with all of Maycomb’s Methodist ladies. This is symbolic of Atticus and Calpurnia’s failure to dress Scout as a proper young lady. (How is it symbolic?)
Scout’s major tormenter is her Aunt Alexandra, who argued many times with Atticus about Scout’s boyish attire as well as her behavior. Aunt Alexandra, and her friends from church, Miss Rachel and Miss Stephanie, happily look down upon poorer people that they considered trash. Their female role was to uphold their personal appearance and keep up with the status quo. Alexandra cared about Atticus, Jem, and Scout, which is evident after Bob Ewell’s attempt to murder the children.
Another tormenter is Mrs. Dubose, who first chastises Scout for speaking out in class and then about Scout’s habitual attire. Mrs. Dubose is racist, and she seems to be the stereotypical southern belle. (Meaning all southern belles are racist? ) In her old age, she becomes a morphine addict. Lee makes her readers wonder what happened in Mrs. Dubose’s life to lead to this addiction. Mrs. Dubsose was also ridiculed by her friends from church for being stingy with her time. Jem(Do you need to describe all of the characters or are you assuming the reader has read the book?) also has a part in calling Scout out because she does not act like a girl. Scout identifies with more male characters in the book: Jem, Dill, and her father, Atticus. She refuses and hates the frills and flounces of “proper little girls” (Middel, 1). She prefers her overalls, sneakers, games, and fights. She considers her Aunt Alexandra and Mrs. Dubose altogether useless, and she wants nothing to do with them.
Lee presents to both the North and South a picture of the African-American as a human being. Lee’s portrait of the African-American and the many situations the race faced opens the eyes of readers, many whom have stereotyped blacks themselves (I would leave out this statement). Harper Lee uses racism in To Kill a Mockingbird to show her readers the consequences of being racist. The sentence of Tom Robinson, Atticus defending Robinson, and Jem’s thoughts on African-Americans are all examples of Harper Lee’s purpose of including racism in To Kill a Mockingbird. Racism is the hatred or intolerance of another race. In this book, the African-American population is the target of racism.
Tom Robinson is a black man whose hand is crippled, and he is accused in 1935 of raping Mayella Ewell. Tom Robinson is an innocent, helpful, and unbiased man. Harper Lee spirals his act of kindness into a death sentence served by an unfair and racist jury. Tom Robinson was an innocent man with little power due to the color of his skin. He is also a man of good character and morals. Lee makes Tom Robinson’s life dependent on the goodness of Atticus Finch. Some black readers felt that black characters in the book were not portrayed as well as the protagonists that are white. What does this have to do with gender?
Tom Robinson’s trial is a direct allusion to the Scottsboro Trials. Lee uses an allusion so that the reader can easily relate to the times in which a story takes place. An allusion is a reference to a place, person, event, or idea existing outside the literary work. Both the fictional and non-fictional cases take place in the 1930s. Harper Lee describes the root of all injustice in the court room as purely racism coming from the townspeople, the judge, jury, attorney, and most definitely the supposed victims and defendants.
The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box.  As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash (Lee 260).
Lee goes beyond law and helps illustrate these problems with religion, ethics, and philosophy. Lee also writes to an audience of not only the legal system, but to normal citizens.
In another court case, The United States, Appellants, v. Cinque, slaves are put on trial because they escape and kill their captors. This case happens in a period where slavery still exists and there are many mistrials about who technically owns the slaves. This is a trial of white vs. black. In this case, the slaves win. Like The United States, Appellants, v. Cinque, Tom Robinson’s trial is white vs. black, but white wins. Consequently, Tom Robinson is killed for something he did not do. Lee uses this example to show readers how “racist, judgmental, and stereotypical” (Johnson 17) most Southern whites were during this time period. (I think you are putting too much about racial issues and not concentrating on gender issues)
Common stereotypical names of the ’20s and ’30s include: “toms, coons, mulattoes, mammies, and bucks” (Johnson 109). These refer to a very helpful tool of racist white people. These tools were portrayed in novels, dramas, and film. Calpurnia does not fit the stereotypical “mammy.” Lee uses exaggeration and delirium to create situations surrounding African-Americans. Calpurnia is maternal, caring, and hardworking. Atticus’ late wife died two years after Scout was born, and Calpurnia takes the matriarchal role in her absence. She is African-American, but her character also defies the stereotype of being ignorant and uneducated. She is actually the complete opposite. Calpurnia teaches both Jem and Scout to read. The teachers are not happy, but Calpurnia is determined to influence the children positively. She has strength and independence, and gives the children a different view of African-Americans. She is not swayed by other town members. She is not racist toward white people, and she is not a Southern belle. She portrays Atticus Finch in a female body, and she is feminist like Scout.
Mrs. Pecolia Barge was an African-American lady, born in 1923 just outside of Birmingham, Alabama. She grew up around the same time as Scout did in To Kill a Mockingbird. Like Calpurnia, she defied all stereotypes after graduating with a college degree and sending her three children on to college and then to professional jobs. Northern readers find old predjudices about the South replaced by the more modern characters Lee portrays. Many Southerners finally start to see the African Americans that had lived among them all their lives as complex people.
Wayne Flynt, in his study Poor but Proud: Alabama Poor Whites (1989), believed Harper Lee had not avoided the stereotype of the poor white Southerner. The poor white Southerner is a constant character in To Kill a Mockingbird. The Ewells are poor and disheveled with a father who is constantly drunk fully. These characteristics fully illustrate the poor white Southerner stereotype. The Cunnighams also fall under the stereotype. They pay their debts and work hard, but earn no extra money for themselves. Jem and Scout often have frequent discussions with their father about the Ewells and Cunninghams. Atticus wishes to give his wisdom on the people of Old Sarum, but Aunt Alexandra forbids Atticus to discuss the poor whites of Maycomb around Scout.
Mayella Ewell is a poor girl who kept the house and cared for her younger brothers and sisters. She suffers from abuse at the hands of her alcoholic father. Her life is consumed with work and poverty, not school, friends, or any hope. She kisses Tom Robinson because of an emotional need to feel loved. This act angers her father. Consequently, she receives a beating and is raped by her father. Mayella’s role is a true account of what many young women faced during this time. Despite her arranged lies that convicted Tom Robinson to his death, the reader usually feels some sadness over the terrible role that Mayella Ewell has.
Fictional portraits of poor whites gave the world a view of them. In William Faulkner’s short stories, “The Long Hot Summer” and “Barn Burning,” he wrote about a family that was a prime example of poor whites. The first excerpt was the account of a son of a Southern sharecropper. This man lived through the reality of being white and poor in the 1920s and 1930s. Faulkner wrote about the treatment of the poor white Southerner. He created characters hated by both whites and blacks, and that were generally known as “poor white trash” (Johnson 157).
Harper Lee totally avoids the typical Southern gentleman stereotypes with her character, Atticus Finch. Atticus is not a man of quick action or adventure. He does not wish to go back to the past, and he would never fight to keep the South segregated any longer. Throughout Atticus Finch’s life in Maycomb, he knows about the constant humiliating and stereotyping of African-Americans in the community. He tolerates it, and when needed, he overlooks it. He hopes the struggle for justice will not come during Scout or Jem’s lifetimes. For Atticus Finch, the worry of the civil rights era comes in the 1930s rather than in the 1960s. Atticus Finch wants to instill in his children the morals and values of non-bias and anti-racism. The reader finds that Lee wants Finch to portray a very cool, calm, and collected man who is an ideal role model for his kids. Atticus Finch wants segregation and racism to end immediately. Many Southerners found in Atticus Finch a kind of man who had been there among them all along, but remained unknown and unseen.
In Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, the upper class Southerners and the Southern gentleman is evident like many other works of this era. In Gone with the Wind, Rhett butler is a brave and romantic gentleman who loves high adventure. He was a man of chivalry and had a temper at the slightest insult. The second view of the upper-class Southerner is one that became known in the 1950s. This image is a man who resists change and progress and who holds strongly on to values and ideas that have passed. He clings to the “good ‘ole days” (Johnson 144) which makes him a figure of ridicule. Atticus Finch is more like the stereotype from the 1950s.
Boo Radley’s character is labeled with many names: outcast, different, witch, and vampire. One of the main plots of the book is when the children are overwhelmed with the mystery exemplified by Boo Radley. Although he first fulfills the outcast stereotype in the beginning, he becomes a savior in the end to the children. Boo Radley killed Bob Ewell while protecting Jem and Scout. His character was “like a mother lion protecting its cubs” (Middel, 2). This simile gives a true picture of how Boo Radley truly was and how he felt about Scout and Jem. A simile is a figure of speech that expresses a resemblance between things of different kinds. The reader comes to like and know more about Boo Radley than his own community does.
Many readers of To Kill a Mockingbird compare the eccentric outcast of the community to the Salem Witch Trial?. In The Crucible, those accused are placed far away from the “normal and conventional” (Johnson 179) people of the community, as was Boo Radley. Boo Radley is clearly outside of the upscale and more refined part of the society in Maycomb, even though the Radleys have lived in the same house as long as most people can remember. The children find the Radleys mysterious and witchlike at first due to their position in society. In the novel, Lee is trying to put an example of Boo Radley in the reader’s own life. She wants to relate with the reader on this level, because it is universal among many people. The differences in this type of people is an unsettling and frightening.. It takes a long time for the children to warm up to Boo because of the mystery and fright associated with this individual. The children begin to differentiate between themselves and others. Scout comes to know Boo Radley by realizing that she too, is an outcast in school because of her tomboyish ways.
During the 1920s and 1930s, most people acted as a group of followers, not leaders, to make decisions and form opinions. The mockingbird is usually called a “mocker” because it copies the different songs of other birds. Harper Lee uses symbolism by comparing its mimicking of other birds’ songs to the way that many people of this era gave up their own voice to follow the common gender or racialstereotype or status quo. Harper Lee gives tribute to this “copy-cat” action of the mockingbird with this passage:
High above us in the darkness, a solitary mocker poured out his repertoire in blissful unawareness of whose tree he sat in (it was Boo Radley’s tree), plunging from the shrill kee, kee, kee of the sunflower bird to the irascible qua-ack of the blue jay, to the sad lament of Poor Will, Poor Will, Poor Will. (Lee, 105)
To Kill a Mockingbird clearly depicts a time where gender and racial ?stereotypes were very common in many communities. Harper Lee clearly tries to defy most of these and show her readers what stereotypes are like in the communities. Does she try to convince the reader to give up their own stereotypes? She also has characters that fit right in to the stereotypes which show how the community intereacted with one another.. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee describes a small, southern town in the midst of the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s. Lee specifies the fact that gender roles and ethnical and racial stereotypes are major themes that are tied together during the story’s time period in Maycomb, Alabama by painting vivid pictures of her characters that she creates.

Prejudice and Innocence in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Destructive Thought

Prejudice is simply a thought, yet has the ability to do more damage to a society and its citizens than any other force. The novel To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee follows the story of young Scout Finch and her growing understanding of the prejudice in the small southern town of Maycomb in which her brother Jem and her come of age. Lee’s use of symbols illustrates how societies prejudice has the ability to sabotage innocence, childhood, and friendship, and despite it being involuntary, prejudice destructs the lives of everyone who is exposed to the unjust reality it creates.

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Innocence is all some people have, yet prejudice is able to take this innocence away from them, destructing their lives. From the beginning, prejudice surrounds one of the most innocent figures in the novel, Boo Radley. With no knowledge of the truth about Boo, Scout describes him in detail by saying “he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, […] what teeth he had were yellow and rotten” (Lee, 16). Later, Lee uses the gifts that Boo leaves in the tree for Scout and Jem to symbolize the innocence of Boo and how Scout’s prejudice towards him is far from the truth. This prejudice built around Boo destroys his innocence by making people assume he has none, forcing Boo to live a lonely life. The Cunningham family is another symbol of innocence sabotaged by Maycomb’s prejudice. Despite their ability to see Tom Robinson’s innocence at the trial, Aunt Alexandra still deems that “you can scrub Walter Cunningham till he shines, […] but he’ll never be like Jem” (300). Aunt Alexandra, along with the rest of Maycomb, is incapable of putting aside prejudice and only judges the Cunninghams based off of their poorness. The Cunninghams are proven innocent by being able to put prejudice of Tom aside, but their innocence goes unnoticed due to the prejudice others have of them. Tom Robinson’s innocence also goes unnoticed due to prejudice. A symbol of Tom Robinson’s innocence is Tim Johnson, the rabid dog. Tim Johnson is labelled as a dangerous dog, yet is only “lookin’ for a place to die” (126), and is not causing any harm. This is similar to Tom Robinson because he is also falsely prejudiced in a dangerous manner. The unjust prejudice against Tim and Tom are both the destructive forces that kill them. The use of symbolism emphasizes how prejudice can take away innocence and alter innocent people’s lives.

The theme that prejudice causes is loss of childhood innocence which is seen as Scout, Jem and Dill slowly realize how much the prejudice of the town affects lower class citizens. This loss of childhood innocence is much like the symbol of killing a mockingbird, since innocence is destroyed in both cases. Scouts childhood innocence is lost when she realizes the unjust prejudice that many whites have of Tom Robinson. After the incident with the lynch mob outside of Tom’s jail cell, Scout declares that “the full meaning of the night’s events hit [her] and [she] began crying” (208). When the unjust prejudice against Tom Robinson struck Scout, a piece of her childhood innocence is lost, making her cry. Likewise, Jem loses childhood innocence when he sees cement in the Radley tree, where Boo would leave them gifts. After Jem sees the cement in the knot-hole, Scout claims that “[she] saw he had been crying” (84). Jem is more mature than Scout, allowing Boo’s kindness to make him realize that the prejudice of Boo is not true. This makes Jem sympathetic towards Boo because the tree symbolizes his connection to the world, which is now destroyed. Jem’s realization that Boo is wrongly prejudiced causes him to lose childhood innocence. On the other hand, Dill is the least mature and symbolizes childhood through his daintiness. When Dill cries at the trial, childhood innocence is lost not only within him, but the entire novel. After Mr. Gilmer’s cross-examination, Dill begins sobbing and has to step outside. Outside Scout and him talk to Mr. Link Deas and Dill takes a sip of his cola thinking it is alcohol. This sip proves Dill’s desperation to feel better after realizing the unjust prejudice in the courtroom. Dill’s childhood innocence is lost in this scene, symbolizing the loss of childhood innocence as a whole, and therefore the killing of a mockingbird. Childhood innocence within Scout, Jem and Dill is lost throughout the novel because of their realization of the effect of prejudice on other people.

Lee uses several symbols to emphasize how Boo symbolizes friendship and how societies unjust prejudice of him makes it a struggle to have friendship. Boo has little form of communication, yet is able to leave gifts in the knot-hole for Scout and Jem as an act of friendship. When Scout informs Jem that she ate the gum from the tree on the Radley lot, prejudice forms Jems response of “spit it out right now!” (45), since Jem is still naive and thinks anything on Boo’s property is poisoned. The gum symbolizes Boo’s attempt at friendship, and when shot down by Jem, one of his only possibilities of friendship is sabotaged because of prejudice. Later, Boo does another selfless act of friendship as he wraps a blanket around Scout when he sees she is cold. When Scout and Jem realize that Boo put the blanket on Scout, she feels sick. Lee uses the blanket to symbolize the warmth and goodness in Boo, and how he tries to give warmth to Scout. Scout and Jem are unable to acknowledge this due to the prejudice of Boo scaring them away, leaving Boo’s friendliness unnoticed. Only when Scout can form her own opinions and overrule prejudice, can she allow a friendship with Boo. After Boo heroically risks his life to save Scout and Jem, Scout reflects on all of the things Boo did for her and says that “[she] had given him nothing, and it made [her] sad” (373). This proves that Scout no longer fears Boo and can finally have a friendship with him since she has overruled prejudice. The friendship that Boo symbolizes struggles to exist due to prejudice and therefore creates a lonely life for Boo.

In conclusion, throughout the use of symbols, Lee argues the ability that prejudice has to sabotage many of the themes throughout the novel, and explains how  this involuntary assumption destructs the lives of everyone who is exposed to the unjust reality it creates. This is seen as prejudice sabotages peoples innocence, childhood, and friendships. This evidence lacking opinion that we call prejudice, is the most destructive thought.

Works Cited

Lee, Harper. To Kill A Mockingbird New york: Grand Central Publishing, 1982. Print.

Racism in To Kill a Mockingbird

Since its publication in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird has become one of the most widely-read novels in all of twentieth century American
literature, and a salient work of social realism. Despite this universal appeal, it is a novel grounded in a particular time and place. Although published
in the 1960s at the height of the American civil rights movement, the novel is set in the 1930s. This may be read as a decision on the part of Lee, the
author, to distance the novel from contemporary racial issues, or alternatively as a means of providing historical context for those issues and ongoing
problems. The social milieu which emerges out of this context is one in which race and racism are central issues. However, the extent to which racism is
integral to the novel’s meaning and import is something which has been the subject of some debate in the critical literature. This essay will argue that
racism is one of the lenses through which Lee explores some of the more central themes in her novel: namely, the idea of community, belonging and personal
development. In particular, it will be argued, following Meyer (2010) that the idea of the ‘Other’ is central to the novel’s characterisation, and that the
process of ‘Other-ing’ is something which takes place both through racism and apart from it. The novel, narrated from the perspective of Scout, takes the
form of a Bildungsroman in which identity is negotiated by way of reference to the self and to communities. Race is one aspect of this process,
but other elements in the story, such as the character of Boo Radley, demonstrate the degree to which the novel is about other forms of social ‘Other-ing’
and personal identification.
Indeed, the issue of race is something which is not foregrounded until relatively far into the novel. The central narrative tension of the trial of Tom
Robinson is something which emerges only after the initial narrative of the relationship between and games played by Scout, Jem and Dill, and their
fascination with the Radley Place and the ambiguous character of Boo Radley. The device of the unreliable first-person child narrative is one which allows
Lee to explore the tension between nature and nurture, between that which is innate in human behaviour and that which is learned. One element of Scout’s
characterisation which enables her to have an impact on the lives of the adults around her is her naiveté. Her interaction with the mob that comes to
lynch Tom Robinson before his trial is an example of how childlike behaviour can have a greater impact than the actions of adults in such contexts, as the
adult characters are shamed into discontinuing their violent behaviour when they are made to see it from the perspective of a child. The relationship
between the social mores and codes surrounding race and the ideas and desires of the children in the novel is one of the central tensions in the novel, as
Scout (and vicariously the reader) examine the value systems of the community and interrogate them vis-a-vis her (and our) own. What emerges is an
increasing awareness of how her father’s and later her own values do not coincide with those of the social groups and institutions of which she is a part.
This conflict between familial and social values is made explicit in an exchange between Scout and her father early on in the novel:
“Do you defend niggers, Atticus?” I asked him that evening.
“Of course I do. Don’t say nigger, Scout. That’s common.”
“‘so what, everybody at school says.”
“From now on it’ll be everybody less one—”
“Well if you don’t want me to grow up talkin‘ that way, why do you send me to school?” (Lee, 1960: 77)
Atticus has an atypical understanding of the racist value of epithets which are considered standard usage by almost all the white characters in the novel.
Indeed, even characters such as Calpurnia adopt the racist language of the white characters. Moreover, Calpurnia demonstrates the degree to which racial
logic impinges on language by moderating her own according to the people she is with (Lee, 1960: 120). Interestingly, Atticus’ critique of the racist
epithet ‘nigger’ is a class-related one: he describes such speech as ‘common.’ This suggests that Atticus associates racist language with a lack of
education, and Scout is quick to identify the irony in her going to school only to learn ill-educated or common speech. The commonality of this sort of
racist language is made clear when Scout notes that it’s what everybody says at school. The association between institutions and racism is evident, and
this relates also to the idea of ostracism and ‘Other-ing’ of those who are excluded from such institutions. For a number of years after the time during
which the novel is set, and until the successes of the civil rights movement, institutions in the American South such as universities and public transport
were divided along race lines. It is therefore unsurprising that much of the mechanics of the racism depicted in the novel should operate along
institutional lines.
Heims (2009) has argued that the relationship between Scout’s development and the ‘Other’ is at the centre of the novel, and that she negotiates a complex
process of self-discovery which at times in the novel involves casting the self as ‘Other.’ This is seen at various stages in the novel when Scout finds
herself identifying with those who, according to the values of the community, are considered inferior and different. Her identification with the victims of
racism and prejudice over the course of the novel demonstrates the apparent illogic of the behaviour. As Dare (2001) has argued, Scout’s innocence is a
central element in the narrative, and serves to highlight the ways in which racism and class division operate in Maycomb. Wilson (2005) notes that Tom
Robinson’s guilty verdict is demonstrative of a wider lack of social justice for black men, but it is the developing moral framework of the first-person
narrative – that of a white girl – which throws light on this failure (Shackelford, 1997). Scout’s judgement anticipates the developing moral
framework in which the case for civil rights was being articulated at the time of the novel’s publication, but the social context in which the novel was
written was one in which justice was still more difficult to come by, at least in some parts of the United States such as the South, for black people than
for white people. Jackson (2003: 277) has identified how the novel ‘skilfully uses the device of seeing events through the eyes of children,’ and racism in
particular is an ideology which is presented as something that Scout eventually comes to reject. Much of this understanding of the nature and practice of
racism comes through Scout’s learning about the meaning of certain derogatory terms which are addressed to her and her father in the light of his defending
Robinson. Atticus describes the term ‘nigger-lover’ to her as something that’s ‘hard to explain’ and that ‘ignorant, trashy people use it when they think
somebody’s favoring Negroes over and above themselves’ and that it is used when those people ‘want a common, ugly term to label somebody’ (Lee, 1960:
112). Atticus has understood the degree to which such racist terms are employed by people who see their personal interests as being under threat. It
becomes apparent as the novel progresses that racism among the white characters is above all a product of fear and concern for their own interests. Racism
becomes a means by which black people can be oppressed through language and discrimination. The violent reaction against Atticus, therefore, can be
understood as coming from the fear among the white community that someone of their number, an educated man and a lawyer, might be acting in a way which
favours other people’s interests.
However, there is a paradox inherent in the idea that the novel presents the maturation of the children and their increasing sympathy for the Other as they
mature, whilst the white adults of the novel are highly prejudiced and largely unsympathetic to the ‘Other.’ This paradox centres on the figure of Atticus
Finch, who carries a great deal of moral weight in the novel as one of the few white males in the text who oppose the racist logic of the novel’s social
milieu. Atticus’s decision to defend Tom Robinson is one which immediately alienates him and his family from the community. Much has been made in the
literature of the role of Atticus Finch, and the status of the character as an American hero: ‘the story of the Robinson case, the anecdotes and the
impressions help to explain how Atticus Finch is a hero, and how lawyers become heroes in America’ (Shaffer, 1981: 181). The closing speech that Atticus
delivers before the jury is a central set-piece in the novel and in its treatment of racism. The speech is notable for its focus on the moral codes of the
society which have been broken, and the relationship between these codes and the idea of criminality. Atticus notes that Mayella used the rape accusation
to invent criminality when all there had been was a flouting of conventions: ‘She was white, and she tempted a Negro. She did something that in our society
is unspeakable: she kissed a black man. Not an old Uncle, but a strong young Negro man’ (Lee, 1960: 207). Although not a crime in itself, this behaviour
would lead to such social ostracism and outcasting in the society in which the novel is set that Mayella accuses Tom of rape as a means of assuaging her
guilt (Halpern, 2008). Again, the treatment of racism here is closely associated with a wider examination of social codes and behaviours. The sexual
association between a white woman and a black man is particularly taboo, and here race impinges on other kinds of relations to create a complex situation in the public eye, although Atticus argues that the case is as simple as ‘black and white’ (Lee, 1960: 207).
In the case of Mayella, the issue of social ostracism and the idea of ‘Other-ing’ recur as key elements. Mayella’s relations with Tom would lead to her
being made a social outcast, being excluded and exiled in the manner of Boo Radley, albeit for very different reasons. These different narratives of real
or potential ‘Other-ing’ contribute to the sense in the novel of a clearly defined social code of conduct, the contravention of which leads to one being
outcast from the group. Race is one of the key nexuses through which this strong tribalism is explored, but it is also something which is more widely
treated in the novel in the context of property and ownership. The defence of one’s property is a recurring theme, as in the case of Mr Radley and his
firing after intruders. Here, notably, the action is emphasised as being indiscriminate and not racially motivated per se; Radley is willing to
use force to defend himself and his property from whoever it may be:
“Shot in the air. Scared him pale, though. Says if anybody sees a white nigger around, that’s the one. Says he’s got the other barrel
waitin‘ for the next sound he hears in that patch, an’ next time he won’t aim high, be it dog, nigger, or – Jem Finch!” (Lee,
1960: 55)
This description of Mr Radley’s indiscriminate defence of his property is indicative of the way in which other social concerns – money, ownership and
so on – intertwine with racism but are not necessarily synonymous with it. It can be noted that racism during the period had a number of economic
associations, and racism can be linked to the practice of slavery in the previous century (Wilson, 2005). However, the ability of white people to
discriminate against other white people in the novel, and the degree to which self-interest motivates much of this discrimination, demonstrates how racism
is but one aspect in the novel’s mapping of social behaviours and actions.
Race is undoubtedly one of the elements which distinguishes characters in the novel, and one of the social elements through which the residents of Maycomb
identify themselves and others. The white community of the town is undoubtedly racist, and Atticus’s decision to defend Robinson is one which leads to a
process of ‘Other-ing’ by association, in which not only Atticus but also Scout and Jem are alienated and ostracised from the community by virtue of
Atticus’s decision. The residents racialise what is in fact a crime of a sexual nature by foregrounding the fact that the accused is a black man and the
victim is a white woman. Race enters into the debate surrounding the incident and condemns Robinson to be judged guilty independently of the evidence
against him. The binary terms which define racism as an ideology impinge on social relations between the Finch family and the rest of the community, with
the residents identifying them with the ‘black side’ and therefore with that which is inferior or enemy. This ‘Other-ing’ of the Finch children and their
identification with the black community is made explicit by Lee in the depiction of Calpurnia, and the fact that she takes the children to the local black
church where they are met with a positive and welcoming reception. The topographical division of the community into black and white groups is made explicit
during the trial, when the Finch children sit in the ‘coloured balcony’ (Lee, 1960: 166). The nature of pre-civil rights America was one in which
communities were divided not just in ideological but in literal terms, between white and black institutions and spaces. The tension in the novel between
local and foreign, known and unknown, safe and dangerous is one which is explored in racial terms. It is also, however, something which defines the
opposition between the understood and the ‘Other,’ and is seen in the mysterious and unexplored nature of the Radley Place as much as it is in the idea of
racial division.
Boo Radley serves as an effective corollary to the character of Tom Robinson by demonstrating that ostracism and the process of Other-ing can take place in
the absence of racism. At the beginning of the novel, he represents the personification of the unknown, a local ‘Boogeyman’ and object of fear for the
three children. The revelation that he might be more benevolent than this first impression, which manifests itself through anonymous gifts and gestures, is
one which at first puzzles Jem and Scout. The children’s emotional and intellectual development in the novel equips them with the understanding necessary
to humanise Boo and turn him from this ‘Other’ figure into someone they can understand and sympathise with. The plight of Tom Robinson, and the children’s
increasing awareness of how he has been mistreated and misrepresented by the town’s adults, educates Jem and Scout in the ways in which adults prejudice
themselves against and behave discriminatingly towards those they perceive as ‘Other.’ Their increased understanding of Tom results in increased
understanding of Boo, and enables them to see racism as one of many processes by which hate and prejudice can manifest themselves in communities. During
the trial, Jem comes to understand that Boo’s reclusiveness is not a sad exile but a conscious decision to distance himself from these processes and
Scout, I think I’m beginning to understand something. I think I’m beginning to understand why Boo Radley’s stayed shut up in the house all this time…it’s
because he wants to stay inside (Lee, 1960: 231).
The narrative development of the novel is therefore one of a progression from ignorance to understanding, from fear to tolerance and acceptance. This is
the central moral drive in both the Boo Radley and the Tom Robinson elements of the story. Racism is one form of prejudice through which ignorance and a
lack of understanding manifests itself. It is also the means through which characters distinguish themselves from the perceived threat of the ‘Other’: by
judging and condemning it. The trial therefore functions synecdochally as a component of this overall schema in which characters judge others who are
different from them. The development of the relationship between the children and characters like Boo Radley and Calpurnia is one in which initial
difference is overcome and what was originally perceived as a threat or a conflicting relationship is revealed to be one of common humanity.
To conclude, it is evident that race and racism are central concerns in To Kill a Mockingbird, and the status of the novel as a seminal work of
realist fiction in American social history is a justified one. Its genesis at the time of the civil rights movement, and Lee’s decision to set the novel at
a time when this movement was in its comparatively fledgling stages, all point to this association. However, despite the centrality of the issue of racism,
and its treatment through the character of Atticus Finch and his defence of Tom Robinson, it is one theme among many in the novel which address what this
essay has argued is the integral motif: namely, the process of ‘Other-ing’ which is perceived as alien and different, and the narrative trend for these
initial ‘Others’ to be reconciled and understood as the novel progresses. In particular, it has been argued that the character of Boo Radley, a white man
who undergoes a similar, though considerably less extreme, process of ostracisation and ‘Other-ing’ in both the eyes of Scout and those of the community,
demonstrates the degree to which this process extends beyond race. The treatment of racism is therefore highly subtle and important To Kill a Mockingbird, but it is also part of a wider exploration of the mores and behaviours of individuals and communities in a particular time
and a particular place.
Dare, T. (2001). Lawyers, ethics, and to kill a mockingbird. Philosophy and Literature, 25(1), 127-141.
Halpern, I. (2008). Rape, Incest, and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: On Alabama’s Legal Construction of Gender and Sexuality in the Context of Racial
Subordination,Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, 18(3), 743.
Heims, N. (2009). Were You Ever a Turtle?’: To Kill a Mockingbird: Casting the Self as the Other. Critical Insights, 1-8.
Lee, Harper. (1960). To Kill a Mockingbird. New York, NY: McIntosh and Otis.
Meyer, M. J. (2010). ‘Spooks, Masks, Haints, and Things That Go Bump in the Night: Fear and Halloween Imagery in To Kill a Mockingbird.’ In Meyer, M.J.
(ed.) Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: New Essays (pp.128-242). Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.
Shackelford, D. (1997). The female voice in To Kill a Mockingbird: Narrative strategies in film and novel. Mississippi Quarterly, 50,
Shaffer, T.L. (1981). The Moral Theology of Atticus Finch. University of Pittsburg Law Review, 42, 181-224.
Wilson, C. E. (2005). Race and Racism in Literature. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Harper Lee’s only novel to date is To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960 but set in the 1930s in America’s deep-south. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize and was quickly made into a successful film starring Gregory Peck. The popularity that the novel immediately attracted endures to modern times.
The semi-autobiographical story concerns the trial of an innocent black man, Tom Robinson for the rape of a white woman, Mayella Ewell and around this central drama the novelist has woven a tale which reveals the appalling nature of prejudice in many forms, not just that of colour, as her ‘mocking birds’ which must not be harmed because they do none, suffer from the cruelty and ignorance of those around them.

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The story is told through the eyes of the child narrator, Scout, who lives, along with her brother, Jem, with their father, Atticus, the town lawyer and destined to represent the ill-fated Tom Robinson, and their cook/housekeeper and friend, Calpurnia. In his attitude to Calpurnia, as to much in his life, Atticus challenges the contemporary view because though Calpurnia is black, she is treated as a member of the family, much to the annoyance of his sister, Alexandra. Atticus is in fact the means by which Lee examines much that is wrong with Maycomb society, from his lack of prejudice, to his defence of Mrs. Dubose and Boo Radley and his skilful means of challenging the education system which denies Scout the freedom to read by simply ignoring it. The motto by which he lives is that, ‘you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view–until you climb into his skin and walk around in it’ and this he passes on to his children. However, Lee is keen to avoid making Atticus appear patently and self-consciously heroic, as in the mad-dog incident and, indeed, his defence of Tom Robinson, he only acts ‘heroically’ when he is compelled to do so.
Lee treats the reader to a succession of humorous, sympathetic and engaging characters as the story develops, none more so than the pivotal and mysterious Boo Radley and the quaintly eccentric Dill (the latter is thought to have been based on the author Truman Capote, with whom Lee grew up). Boo is in a sense both the greatest victim and the ultimate hero in the book and in many ways Dill is the ‘comic-relief’ as well as being the representative of what we would now call a dysfunctional family as much as is Boo.
By using the device of the child narrator, Lee invites both advantages and disadvantages. She gains the innocence and naivety of Scout together with her ingenuous curiosity and her ability to diffuse tense situations by her inherent innocence but she also has the commensurate disadvantage of having to get round the problems that necessarily attach to a child being the principal means by which a trial for rape is discussed. Lee solves this in the main by having Scout overhear conversations which she does not fully understand but which the reader, of course, does. This dual narrative relationship with the reader is one of the reasons why Lee’s narrative technique has been so highly praised.
However, the main reason why the novel has achieved such a seminal place in the development of the American novel is that it was published at a time when racial tension was at its height in America and being challenged as never before by the Civil Rights Movement, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. Thus, by showing the injustices which black Americans continued to suffer via a narrative set nearly thirty years before, Lee addresses a contemporary problem by means of the historical resonance with which the book is permeated. Emblematic of this is the trial of Tom Robinson which had a contemporary connective in a similar trial in the 1930s. Tom, one of Lee’s principal ‘mocking birds’, is manifestly innocent and proven to be physically incapable of having committed the crime by Atticus: ‘Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don’t pretend to understand’, he declares and the reader shares his lack of comprehension, making prejudice manifestly against reason.  The fact that this does not and cannot save Tom in an atmosphere which seethes with racial hatred adds to the imperative of the narrative;
In the secret courts of men’s hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed.
However, Lee is even-handed in her depiction of racial tension, since when Calpurnia takes Scout and Jem to the church where the black residents of Maycomb worship, they are not universally welcomed and certainly Tom is not the only victim of prejudice in the story. Boo Radley, imprisoned by his well-meaning but misguided father after a teenage misdemeanour, has become the subject of much gossip and conjecture. Indeed, the children, Scout, Jem and Dill, make him the subject of their daily dramatics, supplanting the ‘Dracula’ stories with which they have become bored. Atticus stops this as soon as it starts and the irony is that a friendship blossoms secretly between Boo and the children, of which the culmination is Boo’s saving the lives of Scout and Jem when they are attacked by the vicious Bob Ewell. Scout reiterates the idea, slightly altered, that Atticus uttered early in the novel, that ‘you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them’ and by now the reader fully understands the meaning of those words, just as the child does.
In conclusion, perhaps it is true to say that the enduring achievement of Harper Lee’s novel is to portray racial hatred and a multiplicity of tensions motivated by misapprehension and prejudice via the microcosm of small-town America which is Maycomb. Indeed, perhaps readers continue to respond to To Kill a Mockingbord precisely because of the prejudices which sadly remain.

Jerilyn Fisher and Ellen S.Silber, Women in Literature: Reading through the Lens of Gender, (Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 2003).
Wayne Flynt, Poor but Proud: Alabama’s Poor Whites, (University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, AL, 1989).
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockinbird, (Arrow, London, 1989).
Claudia Durst Johnson, Understanding to Kill a Mockingbird: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historic Documents, (Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 1994).
Annie Kasper, ‘General Semantics in to Kill a Mockingbird’, ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, Vol. 63, 2006.
Dean Shackelford, ‘The Female Voice in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’: Narrative Strategies in Film and Novel’, The Mississippi Quarterly, Vol. 50, 1996.
Renee Swanson, ‘The Living Dead: What the Dickens Are College Students Reading?’, Policy Review, No. 67, 1994.