Untitled Essay Research Paper The Mortal MockingbirdA

Untitled Essay, Research Paper

The Mortal Mockingbird

A songbird’s melody can evoke happiness in anyone, as can the smiling face

of a child. The mockingbird sings for the sake of singing, and an innocent

child possesses an innate joyfulness, as natural as instinct. Yet a mockingbird’s

song dies as easily as innocence. In the beginning of the novel, To Kill

A Mockingbird, Scout and Jem are portrayed as innocents, uncorrupted by our

world of prejudice and racism. Their world is simple, sensible, a child’s

world. However, by the end of the novel, their world has expanded to enclose

the irrational nature of humans. Jem and Scout’s growing up is portrayed

by a series of events that shatters their innocence as easily as a mockingbird

can be silenced.

One of the first chinks in their armor of naivité that protected them

was social prejudice. This was introduced to them in the form of Aunt Alexandra.

Scout was crushed when Aunt Alexandra sent Atticus to talk to the Scout and

Jem. ” ‘you are not run-of-the-mill people, that you are the product of several

generations gentle breeding…try to behave like the little lady and gentleman

that you are’ ” (Lee 133). Scout was upset because he was essentially telling

her not to be herself. Aunt Alexandra wanted to change Scout’s personality

to conform to society’s ideas of what was right for a girl in those times.

It seemed like Atticus had almost encouraged them to find their own way,

despite the disapproval of many in town; overalls were allowed for Scout,

a female, and they had free run of the surrounding few houses during the

day. Although the incident with Atticus preaching Aunt Alexandra’s ideas

made Scout feel overwhelmed, Atticus resisted Aunt Alexandra by telling Scout

to f!

orget what Aunt Alexandra told him to say, which reassured Scout somewhat.

Another way Aunt Alexandra introduced Jem and Scout to social prejudice was

how she wouldn’t let Scout play with Walter Cunningham. Because the Cunninghams

were farmers that lived out of town, Aunt Alexandra regarded Walter to be

socially inferior, and said she would only let him in the house on business.

” ‘Because he’s trash, that’s why you can’t play with him (Lee 225).’ ” This

exposure to social prejudice struck Scout harder, because this time around,

Atticus couldn’t say, forget it. There was no one to tell her that it would

be okay, the rest of the world may judge people by their social class and

place in society, but we don’t. When Aunt Alexandra leaves, Atticus and the

children may not go by her social ideals, but Scout realized that this is

the way much of her society thinks, and more innocence is lost by this


When Atticus made his stand against the mob at the courthouse, Scout and

Jem learned about some the group dynamics that affect many mobs and gangs;

a different kind of dent. Scout knew Mr. Walter Cunningham to be a good man,

one that her father approved of. Yet he was in the mob that was seeking to

lynch Tom Robinson. As Atticus later explained to her, he was still a friend

and a good person, but sometimes when you’re in a group, you do things and

make decisions that you wouldn’t as an individual. ” ‘A mob’s always made

up of people, no matter what…Every mob in a Southern town is always made

up of people you know…’ ” (Lee 157) A mob is simply a group of people that

get carried away over an idea. It took nine-year-old Scout to bring that

group of people to their senses, to realize what they were going to do in

relation to their life. Until then, they had let the mob mentality carry

them away, not once considering what was happening. Scout had been introduced

to mobs, and !

found that they could be even made up of friends she might otherwise consider

level-headed and rational.

Scout and Jem were surrounded by racism and prejudice as children, but until

they matured more, they didn’t see it for what it was. It was part of their

environment at the time, and children don’t question that. It was simply

the way things were, and it wasn’t challenged it until something enormously,

obviously wrong occurred close to home. That occurrence was Tom Robinson’s

trial. The way all the black citizens were made to sit in the balcony in

the summer, the hottest part of the courthouse, Jem and Scout didn’t notice.

The way the blacks weren’t allowed to sit on juries, they didn’t remark on.

Dill emotionally pointed out how disrespectfully Mr. Gilmer was treating

Tom Robinson, but at first Scout didn’t understand what was wrong. But what

hit Scout and blew Jem away was the obvious unfairness of the verdict. Mayella

and Bob Ewell were in the wrong; Tom had not willingly touched Mayella, and

the whole courtroom knew it. They simply chose to ignore it. To all but one

on th!

e jury, it didn’t matter that they would convict an innocent man; he was

black. A black man had challenged a white man’s word, and in that time in

society, that was unacceptable. Scout, on the other hand, never had that

preconception; she never knowingly treated Negroes with disrespect because

of their color. Atticus had shielded her and her brother from any outward

prejudice against blacks. However, even he could not keep out the thought

that Negroes weren’t quite the same. Then she saw Tom Robinson found guilty,

and saw him die as a consequence. Racism had been so deeply ingrained that

Scout didn’t realize its intensity and results until that tragedy opened

her eyes. As a result, racism and its effects entered the ever-expanding

world of the Finch children.

In the beginning of the novel, Scout and Jem thought there was one kind of

folk, the nice, safe folk of Maycomb. But when Bob Ewell spit in Atticus’s

face and threatened him, Scout and Jem fully realized that even Maycomb has

its share of “social exceptions,” the people that society barely tolerated.

Scout and Jem had known a little about them; Scout had never heard Atticus

talk of people the way he talked about the Ewells. “Atticus said the Ewells

had been the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations. None of them had

done an honest day’s work in his recollection…They were people, but they

lived like animals”(Lee 30). Yet when Atticus allowed Bob Ewell to spit in

his face and threaten him, Scout and Jem realized the crimes of society that

such a exception could commit, with their only punishment being forever outcasts

of society. Atticus explained that these crimes were allowed for the children;

if these outrages didn’t happen, they would suffer. They showed no interest


in an education, never worked or kept themselves clean, but they were children,

and to cause them unnecessary suffering would be unthinkable. A new category

had been added to the children’s view of people; those who wouldn’t work

and would be useless if forced- the “social exceptions.”

As if they were the harmless songbirds, the children’s innocence was shattered

by these events. Social prejudice, racism, mobs, and “social exceptions”

were now a part of their world. The naivité and purity had been replaced

by the knowledge of human nature and the corruption of our world. The world

was no longer simple, and the mockingbird was dead.


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