Boundaries, Distinctions, And Games Essay, Research Paper
Boundaries, Distinctions, and Games
To Kill a Mockingbird revolves around human behavior and the boundaries that it facilitates. The boundaries of the quiet little town of Maycomb, Alabama are constantly tested by the games that people play. In each game, distinctions evolve. The distinctions become the rules of the game, of life, and from them, different boundaries form for each new character. With each new drama, characters and distinctions change, as do the boundaries which form them.
The “summertime boundary” introduces the first instance of boundaries. This serves as the area in which Calpurnia allows Scout and Jem to play before calling them back home for going too far. The setting of a boundary portrays what will come in the novel. The summertime boundary emerges as the area in which Scout and Jem’s games take place. This also accounts for where they meet Dill, another player in their game. The main character, Boo Radley, lives next door to the Finches. None of the children have ever seen Boo, but from the image they construct emerges a vivid character. “Boo was about six and a half feet tall, judging him from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that’s why his hands are blood-stained – if you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off. There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time.” (To Kill a Mockingbird, p.13). The children test his boundaries as well as their own imaginations by constructing the image. It adds to the game and encourages Jem and Scout to develop distinctions for their boundaries.
Children also learn about boundaries from other people’s games where boundaries develop. Scout’s teacher plays the game of a sympathetic southern school teacher. She appears to be the perfect gentle woman, set in tradition and very sympathetic to the less fortunate, such as the Jews in Germany who suffer persecution. She says, “Persecution comes from those who are prejudiced.” (To Kill a Mockingbird, p.245). Miss Gates’ part also includes the confidence in her higher stature, though she sensibly plays the part down. Many other towns-women also model themselves after the “concerned” character, such as Miss Caroline, Miss Merriweather, and Mrs. Perkins. The women then become parts for children to model themselves after; they become role- models. The women’s games set distinctions that result in the traditions of the town and basis for all future boundaries.
The Ewell’s also play games. Bob and Mayella Ewell portray the trash of Maycomb. Knowing the low stature associated with the name. “Ewell,” Bob and Mayella strive to control people and maintain the status of +untouchables+ in the actions that appear in their games. The Ewells do not go to school, do not accept charity, and do not recognize African-Americans as real human beings. To accentuate his status, Bob Ewell dehumanizes the African- American, calling them “niggers” and treating them like animals. The trial becomes a stage for the Ewell’s game; a game for the whole town to witness. Their power and indifference to others appears in the lies told in the trial. The actions of the game lead to dyer consequences, though these consequences remain unrecognized by the players. The Ewells answer to no one and remain immune to the results of such actions. “Tom was a dead men the minute Mayella opened her mouth and screamed.” (To Kill a Mockingbird, p.241).
Atticus Finch also has boundaries resulting from games that he plays. He uses games to guide him in making just decisions by incorporating courageousness and open-mindedness. Atticus takes everything about a person in before making a distinction. He says, “Most people are [nice], Scout, when you finally see them.” (To Kill a Mockingbird, p.281). In acting out his dramas, Atticus uses trial and error and teaches this to those around him, though he does not allow other people’s games to affect his boundaries. He knows he appears as a role-model and he takes it very seriously by teaching how games lead one to make distinctions. Atticus takes into consideration the decisions made by his ancestors before playing a game and making his own decisions.
His distinctions reflect the culmination of distinctions of the generations before him. All of the games lead to final distinctions that become evident by the end of the novel. These distinctions – race, class, creed, and gender – all contain areas where the boundaries blend into each other. They become points of emergence where individual boundaries occur. The boundaries shape the person into their own distinction.
Distinctions, then, emerge as the novel proceeds. The games of Miss Gates and the ladies of Maycomb’s society set tradition – based boundaries. They look back to their role – models, whose boundaries did not change and evolve with time. This leads to the prejudice apparent in the towns- ladies’ distinctions, though there remains an effort at concealment of the game. The “untouchables” attempt no concealment of their game. The Ewells act out their game openly and with hostility. The price of suffering never becomes a factor in their game, which leads to harsh distinctions. Atticus also does not conceal his game, though it occurs on the opposite side of the spectrum as Bob Ewell’s. Atticus’ game requires a deep understanding of boundaries before setting one’s own. Those who play Atticus’ game must follow the rules of respect and honesty, or the game becomes a farce. His game leads to rational distinctions that reflect fairness and justice.
In each case, boundaries reflect distinctions which outline the rules by which people play games. The games start out with children using their imaginations to construct dramas for the purpose of entertainment. They slowly grow into reality based games as the children experience more of the adult world. The games occur everyday and outline an individual’s life. The boundaries drawn from the games determine the beliefs and ethos of the individual, and in turn, shape the person and the distinction.