Essay, Research Paper
The idea of the journey is a recurring theme within American literature. The novel To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a piece of literature that addresses the theme of the journey (though it is more of a psychological and emotional journey than a physical one). In To Kill a Mockingbird , the journey takes the form of a young girl s (Scout s) realization that the world is not as nice of a place that she thinks it is.
Scout s self-enlightening journey begins when her father, Atticus takes Tom Robinson s case. Tom Robinson is a black man who has been accused of raping a white girl (Mayella Ewell). Mayella and her family are the outcasts of Maycomb (the small Alabama town where the town takes place) mainly because of the way they live and their unconventional behavior (i.e. the children only attend the first day of school: He s one of the Ewells, ma am, whole school s full of em. They come first day every year and then leave. (27) ) Most of the town knows that Tom didn t really rape Mayella, but they can t admit this to themselves because if they did, they essentially would be admitting that Mayella, a white girl, was lying and that would not have been acceptable. They would rather accuse Tom, a black man, because that is justifiable in their minds (in that that kind of behavior is to be expected from someone like him). Scout s everyday life experiences are at the whim of the town when Atticus takes the case.
The townspeople are ruthless when it comes to reminding Scout of their opinion of Atticus and what he has done. Scout s first experience with their animosity happens at school. He[Cecil Jacobs] had announced in the school yard the day before that Scout Finch s daddy defended niggers. I denied it but told Jem. (74) Scout does not really understand what Atticus is doing or the gravity (during that time period, the 1930 s) of what he is doing. Scout even faces ridicule from family. At Christmas, Scout, Jem, and Atticus go to Finch s Landing to spend it with Aunt Alexandra, Atticus sister. It is there that Scout finds that even her own family disapproves of her father s doings. Her cousin Francis says I guess it ain t your fault if Uncle Atticus is a nigger-lover besides, but I m here to tell you it certainly does mortify the rest of the family- (83) Scout demands to know what he means but all Francis continues to do is call Atticus a nigger-lover . Scout s response is I don t know what you re talkin about, but you better cut it out this red hot minute! (83) Even the adults in the neighborhood take their turn needling Scout and her brother. Mrs. Dubose tells the children Your father s no better than the niggers and trash he works for! (102) From all of these comments, Scout realizes that all of these people have turned against her and her father. This is very confusing for her because she had had a friendly (or at least somewhat indifferent) relationship with most of them. This is when the realization that the world is not really a very friendly place starts to sink in.
The realization becomes firmly implanted in Scout s mind before and after Tom Robinson s trial. The night before the trial Tom is moved to the Maycomb jail. Jem and Scout see Atticus leave the house and follow him to the jail. They see Atticus conversing with a group of men who appear to be hostile towards their father. What they experience and witness there makes Scout see that people she had formerly trusted and thought of as friends, had turned against her father. One of the men in the crowd is Mr. Cunningham, a man with whom her father frequently helped with legal matters. Scout approaches him and tries to start a conversation with him, first about his son Walter (with whom she attends school with) and then about his entailment . All of her attempts at starting a conversation fail and she can t figure out why. She is completely oblivious to the fact that the men are there to harm her father. She simply can not imagine any body wanting to harm her father. During the trial, all the evidence points towards the fact that it was Mr. Ewell, and not Tom Robinson who beat Mayella up. However, the jury finds Tom guilty. From this verdict, Scout sees how unfair the world can be. She does not see this on her own but from the words of others. Jem repeatedly says It ain t right. (212) After the trial is over, Scout thinks that life will go back to normal. She is mistaken in this thought, though. The day after the trial, Bob Ewell meets Atticus on a street corner and spits in his face. The biggest shock of all though comes at Halloween. The school is putting on a pageant for the town and Scout is to be a ham. The show goes well. Afterwards, Jem and Scout are waking home through a dark field. Scout has forgotten her shoes at the school and is still wearing her ham costume. Jem tells her that they will go back in the morning for her shoes because it is hard for her to walk in the costume and it is already late. While they are walking home, Jem thinks he hears somebody following them and stops to listen. He dismisses the thought and they continue walking. This happens a few more times. The last time it happens though, the person who is following them runs up behind them and attacks them. Jem ends up breaking his arm and Scout is badly shaken. It turns out that the person who attacked them was Mr. Ewell. He wanted revenge on Atticus and decided that the best way to get it would be to kill his children. Mr. Ewell is the main factor in Scout s realization.
Through her many experiences with other people, Scout realizes that the world is not always a friendly place and that it can turn on you in the blink of an eye. To Kill A Mockingbird does an excellent job of portraying a child s loss of innocence through a psychological and emotional journey. American literature is filled with different types of journeys, some more figurative than others, as is the case in To Kill A Mockingbird .