Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird Essay, Research Paper
Exploration the Theme of Prejudice in Harper Lee’s
To Kill A Mockingbird
Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is set in Maycomb county, Alabama during the 1930s. The main theme is in the form of prejudice; age, gender, race, and the classification of people according to their social class. Prejudice is very well explored in this novel, especially racism. During the 1930s blacks were highly discriminated and life was also hard in those days, due to high levels of poverty. Lee uses each character to expose each type of prejudice and how they correspond with the story line of the novel.
A less significant prejudice in the novel is age. Scout thinks that Atticus is too old and feeble to play around with her and Jem anymore. Jem thinks that he is too old and tired to play football. Scout compares his age to her friends’ parents who are usually much younger. Jem and Scout also think that he is very boring and does not do what other fathers would do, “He did not do things our schoolmates’ fathers did; he never went hunting, he did not play poker or fish or drink or smoke.” Page 95. This age prejudice does not occur only between Jem, Scout, and Atticus but it also occurs between Jem and Scout. Jem wishes that sometimes Scout would go and play with her friends instead of following Jem around because she’s too young.
Jem is not only prejudiced towards Scout regarding age differences; he is also prejudiced towards Scout about her gender. Sometimes Jem wishes that Scout would act more like a girl so that she could play with her own friends or toys instead of following Jem around, “It’s time you started bein’ a girl and acting right!” page 121. As Jem is her older brother, he has influenced Scout very much in many ways and she acts so boyish that sometimes Aunt Alexandra criticizes Atticus for how he has brought up the children. Aunt Alexandra does not like the fact that Scout wears overalls, she believes that is not very lady-like. ” it would be best for you to have some feminine influence. It won’t be many years, Jean Louise, before you become interested in clothes and boys-” page 133. Gender prejudice does not only happen among Scout’s relatives, but also around the town. Scout questions Miss Maudie after she came back from the trial about why can’t women be juries at those times. During the 1930s, only men were allowed to sit on the jury place, which Scout finds very unfair as these juries defend the whites only even though they were guilty. She would prefer people who think like Jem, Miss Maudie, Atticus, and herself (people who are not against blacks) to sit on a jury.
Jem and Scout are some of the characters in the novel that are less prejudice toward racism. Even though Jem and Scout are prejudice toward Atticus because of their age differences, they are not prejudice toward Miss Maudie. Miss Maudie, one of Aunt Alexandra’s friends who comes over for tea, is actually good company of Jem and Scout’s. ” .we could play on her lawn, eat her scuppernogs if we didn’t jump on the arbor and explore her vast back lot .”
Scout learns that life isn’t fair and how deep rooted some prejudices are when she goes to see the trial of Tom Robinson versus Mayella Ewell. For the first time, she realizes that color and appearances do matter in Maycomb County. One of the main incidents in this novel about racism is when the trial of Tom Robinson against Mayella Ewell is held (chapter 17-22). During the 1930s, even if whites were guilty of some crimes, the blacks that are tried against them would be convicted because they were automatically thought to be guilty. “In our courts, when it’s a white man’s words against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life.” Page 226. This happens to Tom Robinson when he is tried against a white girl.
It is very obvious when Atticus questions her that she is not telling the truth. The judge himself chooses Atticus because he knows that he will do a good job defending Tom Robinson despite the fact that they will lose.
Atticus’s character is created so well by Harper Lee that he appears flawless. Even when Scout’s cousin (Francis) insults Atticus via Scout, Atticus advises Scout to stay quiet and not to fight him as it is not a way to solve any problem. Atticus isn’t prejudiced toward anyone and believes that everyone is equal. He does not mind defending Tom Robinson, and he doesn’t mind accepting a black servant as part of the family. Aunt Alexandra does not like the fact that sometimes Atticus talks about other blacks in front of Calpurnia, their black servant, ” Calpurnia’s not leaving this house until she wants to. You may think otherwise, but I couldn’t have got along without her all these years.” Page 142. Calpurnia acts more like a mother-like figure in Jem and Scout’s lives. Atticus disagrees with Aunt Alexandra about the fact that she does not want Calpurnia around anymore. He believes nothing would run smoothly if she were not around.
There are some blacks that are not prejudice toward whites, such as Calpurnia. Calpurnia takes Jem and Scout to her colored church and this is the incident where they are not welcomed by a couple of blacks because of their color differences, “You ain’t got no business bringin’ white chillun here-they got their church, we got our’n. It is our church, ain’t it, Miss Cal?” page 125. These people do not succeed to oust Jem and Scout out of the church, because Reverend Sykes, the priest himself is honored to welcome them because of Atticus standing in the black community.
In Maycomb County, everyone has a different social class inherited by their parents or former ancestors, that is one of the main reason why prejudice occurs. The Ewells are considered as the white trash, the lowest class among the whites in Maycomb County, that is why Mayella Ewell feels mocked when Atticus addresses her as “Miss Mayella Ewell” in the trial. These white trash people are not respected; the community looks down on the Ewells because of their professions (Bob Ewell collects garbage) and the location in which they dwell. The Cunninghams aren’t one of the white trash, they are respected but they are awfully poor. “The Cunninghams never took anything they can’t pay back – no church baskets no scrip stamps.” Page 26. They are farmers who will not take anything in term of service or goods if they cannot repay them.
There are other whites who are outcast from the white community, such as Dolphus Raymond and Arthur “Boo” Radley. Dolphus Raymond is rumoured to drink whiskey every morning when he goes around on horses, he is acting to be drunk as well, “How c’n you stand to get drunk ‘fore eight in the morning?” page 164. As a matter of fact, he is only drinking Coca Cola from a bag and he does so to fool everyone else. Raymond mingles with the blacks, as they are his people because he does not fit into the white community. Another white outcast is “Boo” Radley, his nickname is given by the people who believe the he is a dangerous man. Radley is frightened by everyone who has heard rumours about him; he is rumoured to be very scary-looking with scars across his face. He has been imprisoned in his own house for many years. Scout realizes after he saved her life from Mr. Eddie Ewell, that he isn’t as bad as the town people describe him.
Nowadays, even though people understand the concept of prejudice it appears that we cannot avoid it in our everyday life. We may not even notice it when we have committed some sort of intolerance toward other people. Atticus is trying to raise Scout and Jem in such a way so that they will not be prejudiced toward other people later on in their life. If only everyone was raised that way. Boo Radley, Dolphus Raymond, Tom Robinson, and other characters in the novel represent victims of prejudice in our lives. Harper Lee is trying to tell us is that we could make this world a better place if there wasn’t any prejudice, and it is up to us to make it happen.