The Key Influences in Scout’s and Jem’s Lives

The course of growing up is always influenced by the people around you, since the people in your environment are vital in shaping the person you will become. Harper Lee demonstrates this reality in the classic tale To Kill a Mockingbird, through the eyes of a six year-old Scout and a ten year-old Jem in the racially-tense Southern town of Maycomb during the Great Depression. Both Scout and Jem are exposed to different influences from very important people in their lives. They encountered positive and negative influences that taught them important things about the world they live in. Each influence makes Scout and Jem expand their knowledge of their surroundings and think differently about the society they live, discovering in the process how racism and social class infect the foundation of Maycomb County.

In the novel, Atticus is perhaps the most important factor in Scout and Jem’s growth and maturity. Atticus is not only their father, but also a state legislator and lawyer who sets a fine example to his children by doing what he believes is right regardless of what everyone else thinks. He also encourages his children to follow his footsteps of doing the right thing as well. An example of this is when he was speaking with Uncle Jack said that he hopes that “Jem and Scout come to me for answers come to me for their answers instead of listening to the town” (88). Atticus meant that he wanted Jem and Scout to not become ignorant and narrow minded like the rest of Maycomb. Instead, Atticus hopes that they will become more educated about their society. Atticus also hopes that they grow up to know the racial and social injustice of the home they live in. Another important example that impacted Scout and Jem the most is when he took the case to defend the Negro, Tom Robinson. During that time, Jim Crows disallowed a white man to defend a black person. The Southern philosophy was that black people were at the bottom of the social pyramid, so taking the case was not mandatory. Before Tom Robinson’s trial, Atticus explains to Jem that true courage is “when you know you’re licked before you begin” (134). Atticus knew that he wasn’t going to win the case but did it because he knew it was right. Atticus has played a major role in his children’s growth because of his noble character and what he does because of his beliefs.

Another vital influence in Jem and Scout’s lives is Atticus’ polar opposite and sister, Aunt Alexandra. When Aunt Alexandra is introduced in the novel, she is depicted as the typical “southern belle”. She demonstrates this clearly when she arrives at the Finch’s and tells Scout that “It would be best for you to have some female influence” (69). It was revealed that Aunt Alexandra wanted to change the Finch children into her own image as ladies and gentlemen when she convinced Atticus to talk to them about their upbringings and gentle breeding. The children see through this ploy, and knew immediately that Alexandra put him up to this. Such artificiality makes Aunt Alexandra a less than desirable influence on the two children.

The last and one of the most important in Scout and Jem’s life is Calpurnia. Calpurnia is a caretaker and an important member of the Finch family. In the novel, Calpurnia has helped Atticus to raise the children since their mother died when Scout was two. Unlike Aunt Alexandra, Calpurnia teaches the children to treat everybody the same, no matter what race or where they are in the social pyramid. An example that strongly backs this evidence is when Walter Cunningham was invited to dinner at the Finch’s. Scout was disgusted by Walter’s actions at the dinner table and berates him. An angry Calpurnia lectures Scout and tells her that “Don’t matter who they are… and don’t you let me catch you remarkin’ their ways like you was so high and mighty! You folks might be better… but it doesn’t count for nothin’ the way you’re disgracin’ ‘em…” (25). Calpurnia also believes in equality and that all races can work together. Another proof of this is when she brought Scout and Jem to the Colored Church. Calpurnia had no problem bringing along another race and knew that doing so was the right thing to do, even when others didn’t. Her similarity to Atticus as a broad-minded figure made her an ideal influence for both Scout and Jem.

The events and experiences in Maycomb County did play a leading role in Scout’s and Jem’s maturity at the end of Lee’s novel. However, in a way, the direct influences of authority figures played an equally significant part as well. Atticus impacted Scout’s and Jem’s thinking and knowledge on the society. Aunt Alexandra, despite her flaws, taught them about the social pyramid and how they are expected to act and behave as the “higher class.” For her part, Calpurnia enlightened them on the racial and prejudicial laws that mark Maycomb.

Mayella Ewell

In the coming of age novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee portrays many characters in various ways, but none more insidious than Mayella Violet Ewell. Mayella is the story’s boldest antagonist. She is a static character who undergoes no inner change throughout the story, although is one of the most influential characters. This character demonstrates imprudent and inequitable actions, such as accusing an already maltreated, innocent black man of raping and assaulting her. Mayella acts in such a disgusting and unjust manner because her father has compelled and provoked her to do so. Mayella is a misled, immoral, motherless child who is beaten by her alcoholic father, Robert Ewell. In an attempt to attain power in a shabby, pitiful, existence, Mayella costs an impeccable man his life. Despite the sympathy one feels for Mayella Ewell, her sinful choices and decisions cause her to be portrayed as fraudulent, compulsive, and cowardly toward some of the most charitable citizens in Macomb County.

Mayella Ewell illustrates herself as fraudulent when she repeatedly bursts into tears with an attempt to attain people’s pity or because she is aware that the validity of her responses are questionable- “Mayella stared at him and burst into tears.” (Page 240) and also because she lies about an immaculate defenseless man to the jury, correcting her self and making adjustments to her answer frequently, such as when she says, “No, I don’t recollect if he hit me. I mean yes I do. He hit me.” (Page 248.) Mayella inflicts abhorrence upon innocent Tom Robinson when she claims that Tom had beaten and assaulted her; this causes every white man within the illiberal boundaries of Maycomb County to rebel against Tom’s lawyer, whom is also the story’s illusive beneficial protagonist, Atticus, and become more affronted with black man. There are many discrepant assumptions that could be made about the reasoning behind Mayella’s fraudulent actions, but one to be strongly considered from decisions characterized by throughout the novel are many involving her Father, Robert, whom was a drunk and rapacious man. After having witnessed his daughter with Tom Robinson, he was enraged; he raped and assaulted his daughter. Since he could confirm that Robinson was on his property, Robinson was an easy target. Tom was a black, male, in the vicinity, and since it is a small town, he determined that Tom might have had a police record. Bob Ewell was certain that the one advantage he would have to Tom Robinson in a town of prejudice and discrimination, was being white. Consequently, Mayella was compelled to lie against an innocent man, to guard her family from nuisance.

“She did something every child has done- she tried to put the evidence of her offense away from her. But in this case she was no child hiding stolen contraband: she struck out at her victim – of necessity she must put him away from her – she must destroy the evidence of her offense. What was the evidence? Tom Robinson.”(20-43-44) Her desire to destroy a crippled man accused of raping her when it is physically impossible causes her to be thought of as compulsive. Mayella performs a role for public consumption that of the poor innocent white woman attacked by the evil black man, who must be protected by chivalrous white men. (Shmoop) Despite Mayella’s imprudence as an Ewell, in accusing a black man, she’s able to access the privileges off white southern womanhood. Perhaps Mayella Ewell does not see the apparent injustice with what she did, just that she got caught, and is now attempting to do damage control with her father by lying to the court so he does not receive any consequences. While people believed it was Robinson, Mayella gained positive attention as the poor white woman raped by the insidious black man.

Throughout the book, there’s a tension between what Mayella is and what she needs to be to justify the condemnation of Tom Robinson. Mayella makes cowardly decisions as she is pressured by society and refuses to stand up for what is right. In order to convict Tom, the jury must believe in, or atleast pretend to believe in, the fragile, helpless girl who gets taken advantage of by Tom, rather than the desperate lonely woman who desires him. (Shmoop) Among the trash in the Ewell yard, there is one spot of beauty “Against the fence in a line, were six chipped-enamelslop jars holding brilliant red geraniums, cared for as tenderly as if they belonged to Miss Maudie Atkinson, had Miss Maudie deigned to permit a geranium on her premises. People said they were Mayella Ewell’s” (17.64) This suggests that Mayella aspires to be better than her surroundings, to acquire something bright in her dull world, to strive for higher things. But whatever Mayella’s hopes and dreams are, she is far too cowardly to go about obtaining them the right way.

Mayella’s unawareness of her compulsiveness, fraudulence, and cowardliness causes one to feel almost sympathetic for her. Mayella Ewell is pressured by society to display herself as a compulsive prejudice white woman. She displays fraudulence as she lies against a helpless innocent black man to a prejudice jury and portrays cowardliness as she refuses to stand up for what would humanely be considered as just. Many characters are portrayed throughout the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, but none more deceitful than Mayella Violet Ewell.

Scout’s Perception of Truth and Reality

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it” (Lee 33). Atticus Finch tells this quote to the main character, Scout Finch, in the book To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Jean-Louise Finch (Scout) is a young girl living in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama during the Great Depression. She lives in a society that resents blacks, and one judges people based on color and family history. Atticus, trying to teach his children good morals and values, teaches Scout to see things from different perspectives. He believes that seeing things from other people’s angles helps one get a better understanding of the truth. Though Scout is unable to see things from different perspectives at the beginning of the book, she slowly acquires that skill. As Scout starts seeing things from the perspectives of Calpurnia, Boo Radley, and Tom Robinson, she begins to see past her ignorance and realizes that society has a great capacity for evil, but also has a great capacity for good.

At the beginning of the book, Scout was young, ignorant, and childish. She was only eight years old, and lacked the ability to see all the sides of the story. Scout was narrow-minded, and thus had a negative view of Calpurnia. “I had felt her tyrannical presence as long as I could remember” (Lee 5). Scout believed this because she was always forced to listen to Calpurnia, and Atticus always chose Calpurnia’s side over hers. However, this perspective could not be more false. Though Scout did not realize it at the beginning, she soon realized how wrong her opinion was. At First Purchase Church, Scout saw how difficult life was for African-Americans in Maycomb County. She saw Calpurnia speak two different languages, one that the regular church-goes understood, and one that Scout and Jem understood, to make both parties felt comfortable. She found out that Calpurnia had educated herself and her son, when most of the black community was uneducated. She saw how Calpurnia stood up for her beliefs, and for her and Jem, to Lula by saying, “It’s the same God, ain’t it?” (Lee 136). Seeing Calpurnia’s struggle, and love for her and Jem, Scout realized her perception of Calpurnia was wrong. She realized that Calpurnia was more like a mother figure to her than a servant. In a time of mutual hatred between the black and white communities, Calpurnia demonstrated love and peace. She did not think of anyone in a negative manner, no matter how evil they were to her. Despite Lula saying mean things to her, and Aunt Alexandra attempting to relieve her of her duties, Calpurnia remained kind and loving. Seeing Calpurnia’s struggle and love for her, Scout saw beyond her immaturity and saw how Calpurnia was actually like her mother, and not a tyrant.

Scout changed her perspective of the person she feared most (Boo Radley), by putting herself in his shoes. At the beginning when Scout was immature and childish, she actively listened to the neighborhood gossip about Boo Radley. She heard her neighbors’ say bad things about him, some statements accurate, others not. Hearing what people said about Boo Radley, she grew afraid of him, and made fun of him. Scout, Charles (Dill) Harris, and Jem soon begun playing a game called “Boo Radley”, where they rudely imitated him and his family. The trio would run past his house in fear, but later began mockingly running up to his porch. Boo disregarded their disrespect and impoliteness towards him and left the kids presents in a tree. The presents included chewing gum, dolls, a watch, and pennies. Though she does not understand this at first, Scout soon learned that Boo left her presents in an attempt to start a friendship. This incident caused Scout to begin changing her perception of him. This is evident because Scout said, “Boo was our neighbor. He had gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good luck pennies and our lives. But neighbors give in return… We had given him nothing, and it made me sad” (Lee 320). Scout realized that he was being friendly, but she had not been friendly back to him. She had not considered why he had given the presents, but just accepted them. Later, he put a blanket on her shoulders when she was outside watching the fire at Ms. Maudie’s house, knowing that she must be feeling cold. Moreover, when Bob Ewell attacked her and Jem, Boo Radley saved them. Once they got home, Scout began talking to Boo. While talking, she learned that he was not who she thought he was. He was not the mean, scary figure that she tormented, but was a caring, benevolent figure. She learned this by putting herself in his shoes. Atticus asked her if she understood why they would be telling townsfolk that Bob Ewell stabbed himself. Scout said, “Yes sir, I understand… Well, it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird” (Lee 317). Scout said this because she understood that if people found out that Boo Radley had saved her and Jem, Boo would receive unwanted attention. This instance showed her growth from becoming a young, immature girl, to a developed lady who saw things from different perspectives.

Viewing life through the lens of Tom Robinson, Scout learned how evil society could be. At the beginning of the story Scout lived in her own world, mostly oblivious to what was going on around her. She did not take much interest in what was going on around her if it did not involve her. This was despite her sitting with Atticus everyday as he read the news on the Great Depression, World War II, and racism against colored folk. Slowly she became more aware of the world she lived in. She eventually learned more and more about Tom Robinson, and his unfortunate situation. Though for much of the book she did not know the details of the case, she heard others call Robinson a “nigger”. Scout did not know what this word meant but she understood that it was a hateful word. This caused her to get angry, whenever someone called her father a “nigger-lover”. This was her first glimpse at how evil society could be. Later, during the Tom Robinson trial Scout learned that society was more evil than she thought. Being an innocent girl who did not inherit racist beliefs from her father, Scout could not understand why the white jury convicted Tom Robinson. Along with most people, she knew that he was innocent. Atticus later explained, “In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life” (Lee 252). Scout felt sorry for him because when she attempted to see life through his lens, she saw nothing but pain and suffering. Her perception was confirmed when she learned that Robinson chose death, rather than to continue to suffer. From the Tom Robinson case, Scout learned the truth about the evil, racist society she lived in.

At the end of To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout was a completely different person compared to the beginning of the book. She transformed from an oblivious, ignorant, narrow-minded child, to a mature lady who had the ability to see things from different perspectives. Her open-mindedness helped her see the evils of society through the lens of Tom Robinson, but also helped her see the good through the shoes of Boo Radley and Calpurnia. She learned that Tom Robinson was the unfortunate victim of generations of racism; that Boo Radley was a kind, big-hearted friend; and Calpurnia was like her mother. Once Scout looked past her ignorance and begun seeing events from multiple angles, she determined that society had a great capacity for evil, but also had a great capacity for good.

Through Scout’s Eyes: The Concept of Perspective

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is one of the greatest works of American literature of all time. It has been reprinted again and again, and is a staple in almost any writing or history class. There are a number of reasons why it can be argued that this novel is one of the greatest ever written, but perhaps the most compelling reason is the fact that the very mature and complex themes explored in this novel are all relayed through the eyes of a child. This very unique perspective allows the reader to see the issues of racism, justice, and identity in an entirely different way.              

The story of “To Kill a Mockingbird” is told in first person by Jean Louise Finch, or “Scout”, a young girl living in Alabama during the time of the Great Depression. The nickname “Scout” is a clever indication of the perspective of the story. A scout, in essence, observes and gathers information and relays it to others. This is exactly the case with Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” She relays exactly what she sees, and attempts to make sense of it all through a child’s understanding. The truly compelling factor in this is that while adults tend to “tailor” their words to fit a social form, children speak whatever they think, regardless of how it will be perceived.              

The originality of “Mockingbird’s” perspective can be seen in the very first few sentences, when Scout refers to the summer her brother Jem broke his arm. One recognizes right away that if an adult were telling this story, the first few sentences would no doubt reference Tom Robinson or Bob Ewell. Children, however, have a different idea of importance and structure than adults. A child relaying an event that happened in his/her life might devote all of their description to something an adult would regard as trivial, and gloss over something an adult would deem crucial. This fact adds a certain raw honesty to the plot of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” A child is not likely to lie about events for no reason, so the reader perceives the story with an added level of credibility.              

In the narration of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Scout often relates events that occur, and individuals’ reaction to them, but rarely if ever offer any analysis or reasoning for either. When describing her first day of school, Scout relates how their new teacher’s repeated attempts to educate them are thwarted, and how she ends up crying at her desk. Though Scout never says so, the reader is left to surmise that the teacher, fresh out of college, is more than likely “out of her element” in the backwoods of Alabama. This is an example of Lee’s brilliance as a writer. When every element of a story is explained explicitly, the reader is likely to become bored. When, however, certain components are not stated, but rather deduced, the reader becomes engaged. This is yet another example of the value of a child’s perspective.              

Lee continually reminds us of whose perspective we are reading the story through, often in very clever and unique ways. During Tom Robinson’s trial, Scout, Jem and Dill watch on from the balcony of the courtroom, where the African American community is forced to witness the trial, segregated from their white neighbors. Because of Scout’s unique physical perspective, we realize that we are witnessing the events of the proceeding through not only from her, but also the African American’s eyes. Scout’s position is also symbolic. As a child, she looks on physically, as well as symbolically above her adult comrades, whose views are blocked by one another.              

Ironically, Scout’s perspective on life and the events around her remain relatively unchanged until the end of the story, unlike many around her including Jem, Dill, Sheriff Tate, and other members of the community, who all experience some change in view at some point. Scout’s revision of perspective occurs at the tail end of “Mockingbird” when she realizes that her neighbor, “Boo” Radley is not a monster after at all, but rather a caring and mentally handicapped individual. Scout’s realization signifies that she is starting to grow up, and the ending of the story can be seen as a way to preserve the child’s perspective before it becomes an adult perspective.              

Just as the opening line is crucial to setting the stage for the perspective of the story, the closing line is just as important. Scout says of her father that “he would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.” This final remark, complete with improper grammar, is a final reminder that what we have read has been told through the eyes of a child: Jean Louise Finch.           

Character Analysis in To Kill A Mockingbird

While most people in society strive to have moral attributes, not everyone understands what traits are important in achieving this goal. Often, people attempt to model themselves after another’s example. In the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, Atticus Finch is a single father who lives with his two children, Jem and Scout, in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. His young children constantly find themselves trying to keep occupied during the years that pass. One summer, Atticus, who is a lawyer, finds himself in the middle of a controversial case, involving a black man, Tom Robinson, and a white woman. Scout and Jem observe how Atticus responds to the changes the case brings to their small town which makes the children want to follow in his footsteps. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus is a static character who is continually understanding, just, and honest. Someone cannot truly call themselves a noble person if they are not able to understand others. Atticus is a character who proves noble throughout the story, leading many to respect him. Because of Atticus’ nobility, Jem and Scout are better able to comprehend the transformations in the community with unbiased eyes. “‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view’” (Lee 30). Atticus gives this advice to Scout after she has a terrible first day of school; Scout is not fond of her new teacher and is therefore refusing to go back. Atticus, who is calm and collected, tells Scout that maybe her teacher did not have a very good day either, and that Scout should put herself in Miss Caroline’s shoes before making any rash decisions. In situations like these, it is sometimes easier to learn only one side of the story, but Atticus decides to take a wider perspective. His ability to step back from situations and consider all angles of it shows how wise Atticus can truly be. Furthermore, Atticus shows his discernment when a mad dog enters into the neighborhood. “Mr. Tate almost threw the rifle at Atticus” (Lee 95). The dog is approaching when Mr. Tate, the sheriff, asks Atticus to shoot it for him. Atticus is reluctant but, instead of refusing, he swallows his pride and kills the dog for the safety of his family and friends. He recognizes that through slaying this dog, he will be keeping everyone out of harm’s way.Whether it is encouraging Scout to go back to school or shooting a rabid dog, Atticus keeps his strong sense of insightfulness and understanding throughout the novel.A man who is just is said to be guided by reality, logic, and sprite. All of these traits apply to Atticus, especially during the time of Tom Robinson’s trial. “‘But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal…That institution, gentlemen, is a court’” (Lee 205). During his closing argument, Atticus reminds the court of how the Judicial System is supposed to work: all men, whether they are intelligent, dim-witted, legendary, or black, have the right to a fair trial. Atticus is highly aware that the court is not perfect, but all he asks of the jury is that Tom Robinson may have a fair trial. Without a fair trial, no accurate resolution can be reached. Atticus shows his fairness when he addresses the jury about why he believes Mayella is telling the story the way she is. “‘She has committed no crime, she has merely broken a rigid and time-honored code of our society, a code so severe that whoever breaks it is hounded from our midst as unfit to live with’” (Lee 203). Atticus’ perception pierces through the façade of Mayella’s story and recognizes the reason behind Mayella’s ways. He has reason to believe that her father beat her, and this is the reason she accuses Tom of rape. However, in spite of knowing this, Atticus does not think it is fair to punish Mayella—she was doing what she had to do to save herself. Mayella is only a victim and Atticus does not believe it is just to censure her for this. Atticus proves that he is just in To Kill a Mockingbird by trying to live his life truthfully, reasonably, and fairly. Atticus’ candidness throughout the story is what keeps the surrounding characters grounded and connected to reality. “…why didn’t Atticus just say yes, you’ll go free, and leave it at that— seemed like that’d be a big comfort to Tom” (Lee 254). As a lawyer, it is Atticus’ job to defend his client, but he also must be honest with him. Miss Rachel’s cook did not comprehend why Atticus did not tell Tom they would win Tom’s case, but Atticus did not want to make a promise that he could not keep. Atticus was the only man Tom could truly trust. If Atticus made him a pledge he could not uphold, it would not only break the trust between the pair, but also Tom’s hope in becoming a free man. “‘I told him what I thought, but I couldn’t in truth say that we had more than a good chance’” (Lee 235). Atticus has only been sincere with Tom Robinson and does not sugar-coat anything for his client. He understands that during this stressful time, lies will only make the situation worse. Without the outlook of reality, the ignorance that would certainly ensue would only lead to madness. Atticus’ sincerity is what leads others to trust and respect him in To Kill a Mockingbird.In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, Atticus is an important character who helps readers understand how to look through unprejudiced eyes. This is apparent when Atticus has the children become more sympathetic of the world around them. He is a man who does not see wrong were it does not exist. He is sincere, causing readers to not only trust what he says, but also trust his actions and advice. To be a good person, a man must have respectable characteristics even when others disapprove of them. Atticus Finch proves that even lawyers, can establish themselves to be upright and decent people.

A Comparison of Justice in Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ and Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’

While both Harper Lee and Charles Dickens have parallels in the way they portray justice and the legal system in their respective novels, there are contrasts in the way they portray both Victorian London and the Deep South in the 20th Century. Both novels choose to focus on the shortcomings of the legal system, highlighting the inequality in the way both race and class are treated in society. In today’s society we consider the law to be above this kind of discrimination but this is not always the case, meaning the themes of both novels are as striking and relevant as when they were written. When examining how justice as a theme is depicted in the novels it can split it into three points: crime, innocence and law. Since crime is the source of most of the conflict in the novels, it makes sense to begin by looking at how Dickens and Lee portray this.

In ‘Great Expectations’, Dickens uses Magwitch to show one of the most significant flaws in the Victorian justice system: the cruel and widespread discrimination towards criminals at the time. Dickens believes that the ‘criminals’ were wronged by the justice system and creates a vulnerable character in Magwitch to express this, encouraging pathos from the reader in the process. By writing the novel in a first person perspective Dickens makes this subject highly psychological; we are shown how Pip’s attitude towards criminals changes with age as well as how it is moulded by the people he meets. When Pip is first introduced to criminals as a child he is clearly intimidated, not only by Magwitch himself but by the presence of ‘hulks’ and the arrival of the police looking for the escaped convicts. This is explicitly shown by some of Magwitch’s more aggressive behavior: for example when he turns Pip upside down, exclaiming “Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat”. Following this, Pip’s very first line of dialogue in the novel is “O! Don’t cut my throat Sir!”, which he “pleaded in terror”. His language here (including immediately referring to the man a “Sir”) represent his immediate fear. Not only is this Dickens’ way of showing how society feared criminals at the time, but also his way of introducing Pip as a rather passive character. The Atlantic went as far to call him “weak”, “dreamy” and “inefficient” in a glowing review of the novel released shortly after it was published. However, while Pip is clearly afraid of criminals in situations like this, Dickens’ language seems somewhat more sympathetic. For example, he refers to how the criminals are “penned”, highlighting how criminals are essentially treated like animals in Victorian London. As Pip grows up and is exposed to the much more brutal side of London, he also becomes a lot more tolerant of criminals. He even goes as far as to help Magwitch escape towards the end of the novel. Pip’s change of attitude towards Magwitch is highlighted in Chapter 54, when he says his “repugnance towards him had all melted away”, referring to him as a “shrivelled creature”. The word “shrivelled” suggests that Pip pities Magwitch much more than he fears him here but the word “creature” does suggest that he his still somewhat dehumanized because of his criminality. Not only is this done to reflect Pip’s growth throughout the novel but is also done to encourage sympathy towards those ‘criminals’ who were wronged during the Victorian era. This shows ‘Great Expectations’ to be a bildungsroman of sorts, with Pip’s emotional development being one of focal points of the second half of the novel.

Similar to ‘Great Expectations’, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ shows how the common discrimination against ‘criminals’ is a severe shortcoming of the justice system at the time. We can begin by comparing the characters of Magwitch and Boo Radley. Just like Pip when he meets Magwitch, Scout and Jem are originally afraid of Boo at the start of the novel when he is simply portrayed as a mysterious criminal. By presenting Boo as a reserved character who rarely leaves the house, Lee makes it easy for us to understand how, as children, Scout and Jem are intimidated by him. For example, since they know so little about him they simply fill in the gaps with their imagination, painting him as a sort of monster as shown when he is described as “shut up for a hundred years with nothin’ but cats to eat”. However, in a story arc closely reminiscent of Magwitch’s redemption in ‘Great Expectations’, Boo, Scout and Jem eventually end up helping and protecting each other. For example, when Bob Ewell attacks Scout and Jem, Boo is the one who ends up saving them. Lee does not shy away from portraying Boo as a criminal since she depicts him fatally stabbing Bob but, like Dickens, she does show in a compassionate way since he only does this to protect the children. This leads to some clear growth on Jem’s part when he says “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.” Following this crucial event, the children learn a similar lesson to Pip: that criminals should not be discriminated against purely because of one of their actions. Boo is presented as a good man here and the children seem to agree when they ultimately protect him from incarceration.

Throughout ‘Great Expectations’, Dickens usually only portrays those from lower classes as criminals. The most obvious example is Magwitch, who came from the very bottom of society. Like Pip, he struggled as a young boy and understood the struggles he endured, allowing them to relate to each other and create a rapport. One of the exceptions to this is Compeyson, who received a good education as a child and was apparently quite well mannered before he started his forgery business. However, Dickens seems to show the least sympathy towards this character, especially after we learn the way he treated Miss Havisham. For example, he chooses to paint this character as a middle-class man who has exploited Magwitch, eventually becoming the primary antagonist of the novel and generating a sense of animosity from the reader as well. This could reflect Dickens’ general dislike of those in higher classes, which we also see in some of his other work (for example, Oliver Twist, his social commentary on those who were treated poorly in workhouses/orphanages). This is further described in Dr Andrzej Diniejko’s essay ‘Charles Dickens as Social Commentator and Critic’ (1). He calls Dickens “one of the most important social commentators who used fiction effectively to criticize economic, social, and moral abuses in the Victorian era”. The essay gives some context for Dickens’ animosity towards the treatment of criminals in this time, explaining how Dickens’ father was imprisoned when he was just twelve. Therefore it is no great surprise that Great Expectations provides us with one of Dickens’ more biting criticisms of crime and the British justice system in general, as it is written from the perspective of a young boy who is exposed to this. Dickens clearly identifies with Pip as a character so is able to explore his frustrations with the legal system through him.

Likewise, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is just as much of a social commentary as ‘Great Expectations’. However, Lee can be seen as substituting the idea of class for race. In the same way the privileged in ‘Great Expectations’ often associate those in lower classes with being criminals, white characters in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ often expect this of black people too. For the citizens of Maycomb, crime is just another way for them to discriminate against the minorities in their community. For example, Tom Robinson is widely accepted as guilty throughout the town weeks before his trial and it is immediately clear that when his trial does eventually come, he is convicted purely because of the color of his skin. As Atticus explains to his children, “In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins”. Lee clearly sees this as a miscarriage of the justice system and uses the perspective of the young children, Scout and Jem, to underline just how bizarre racism seems if you are not taught it, which was often the case in the Deep South. Unlike most children in the town, Scout and Jem are raised by a father who believes in equality and never hides his frustration with the status quo in the community. This could be reflective of Lee’s own experiences as her father, Amasa Coleman Lee, was also an attorney and a civil rights activist. While not as radical as Finch, he did fight for African-American rights including an occasion where he defended two black men accused of murder.

However, there may be fault in the way Lee portrays black people herself. Even Calpurnia is not presented as powerful as some white characters in the novel, despite the respect she receives from Atticus. For example when Scout describes how Calpurnia “bent down and kissed (her)”, she creates a situation in which even she seems submissive. This simply does not appear to be down to pure affection; it is more of a form of apology. They often appear submissive which was quite unlike the behavior of many African-American’s at the time; it was more of a time of change. Many critics agree that Lee’s portrayal of minorities in the novel is concerning, with some even suggesting she could be racist herself. Roslyn Siegel suggested Lee intentionally presented black people as ‘stupid, pathetic, defenseless and dependent on the fair dealing of whites’. Such statements could lead modern readers to think much of Lee’s writing could be somewhat hypocritical.

Both novels accuse the justice system of stealing the innocence of those it affects with both the novels being an account of children losing their innocence as a result of flaws in the legal system. This can be seen right from the start of ‘Great Expectations’. In fact, Pip’s exposure to the convict (Magwitch) in the first chapter is the first instance in which we begin to see his innocence eroded as he is manipulated into stealing food for him and lying in order to protect the convict. This only escalates when Miss Havisham essentially chooses him to be her victim as she wreaks “revenge on all the male sex”. From this line it could be argued that Miss Havisham is taking justice into her own hands by judging all men as guilty and deciding on her own punishment, beginning to erode Pip’s innocence. The combination of these experiences in his childhood on top of the fact that Magwitch eventually bestows his “great expectations” on Pip ultimately means that Pip lost his sense of innocence far before he should have. As he is sent to London, away from the security of Joe and Biddy, we find there is very little of the original Pip to be found in the latter half of the novel. A combination of Estella’s influence, Pip’s immersion in London and his active role in Jagger’s legal practice lead to him showing behavior that is far more cold than what we saw from him as a child. This is most clearly seen when Joe comes to visit him in London and shockingly, Pip feels embarrassed by his presence and therefore tries to make him “less ignorant and common”. Once again, it is reasonable to expect this is reflective of Dickens’ experiences growing up and this novel is one of the outlets to his frustration. Dickens losing his father to the legal system is very similar to Pip being taken from Joe and naturally, since they both grew up in London, Dickens uses the nature of the city to reflect how it only serves to further steal a child’s innocence.

Similarly, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is an account of the children’s loss of innocence as they gain a greater understanding of the injustice and prejudice found in the town they live in and the use of a child narrator is instrumental in helping us understand this. Some critics and friends of Harper Lee have pointed out autobiographical elements within the novel so, like Dickens, Lee’s writing could also be a reflection of her frustration at the justice system’s shortcomings. In Jem’s case, he has witnessed the justice system for several years thanks to his father’s involvement and believes that, since Tom Robinson is innocent, he will not be convicted. As far as he is concerned, justice always prevails. However, when he sees how discrimination leads the jury to a guilty verdict, it is unsurprising that he loses faith in the justice system. This is a clear erosion of his innocence is general, as he is exposed to discrimination and hatred despite Atticus’ efforts to shelter him. However, Lee portrays Scout’s loss of innocence in a different way, particularly through her growing curiosity throughout the novel. For example, when Scout asks her father “What’s rape?”, we can not only see her awareness and curiosity for the darker things that she is briefly exposed to, but also her father’s shock and disappointment. Lee presents this line abruptly, creating the same sense of shock in the reader that Atticus experiences. This highlights the contrast between the way Atticus sees his daughter (innocent and immature) and what she has actually become (impressionable, with her innocence being eroded away by the people she spends time with). It is clear that Atticus has become disillusioned with the justice system and this is likely down to the devastating impact it has, albeit indirectly, had on his family.

Furthermore, the theme of innocence can be found in the title of the novel as well, as it is taken from the moment Atticus gives his children air rifles for Christmas. He tells them “Shoot the bluejays all you want, if you can hit ‘em. But remember, it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird”. Lee uses the concept of mockingbirds in the book as a metaphor for innocence and justice in general. Mockingbirds are small birds which sometimes copy or ‘mock’ the songs of other birds – hence their name. They are innocent and do nothing wrong, so should not be harmed. The metaphor is explained further by Miss Maudie when she is speaking to Scout. She tells her “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

Additionally, Lee has placed significance in Atticus’ surname (Finch) as in many respects he shares some characteristics with the birds described by Miss Maudie. He is only trying to protect the justice system and fulfil his role within it, so it is wrong for the rest of the town to antagonize him for this. Lee uses some symbolism to portray Atticus as a sort of protector of the town earlier in the novel when he reluctantly shoots the rabid dog when no one else will. We can also compare Tom Robinson to Lee’s idea of a ‘mockingbird’ as well: he was found guilty despite his innocence which Lee would consider a ‘sin’. The final example of an ‘innocent’ character in the novel is Boo Radley; he kills Mr Radley to protect the children which leaves Scout with a full understanding of the ‘mockingbird’ metaphor. She says: “bringing Boo to court would be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?”, highlighting the link between the metaphor, innocence and the justice system is general. Once again, Lee uses symbolism to show how the justice system in the town is responsible for stealing the innocence of many of its constituents.

Finally, both novels are both very critical of the legal system in their respective settings, but they also pick apart quite different problems with the way the courts operate, focusing on how they can often be unjust. In ‘Great Expectations’, Pip first insight into the legal system is when he arrives in London in Chapter 20 and visits Jaggers’ office for the first time. It is located on a “grimy street” between both the Old Bailey and Newgate Prison. By placing the office in a dangerous, decrepit part of London, Dickens is able to use the office as a representation for the entire legal system in London at the time. It is corrupt and unforgiving, just like some of the worst parts of London in the novel. However, when it comes to actual evidence of injustice in the legal system, one of the best examples comes in Chapter 41. Here, Magwitch reveals his personal history, which involved him growing up as an orphan and surviving on the streets through crime. He eventually meets Compeyson, who exploited him into circulating his stolen notes for him. When they were both eventually arrested, Magwitch explains how their social class was one of the only factors when deciding their punishment: Compeyson (the more ‘upper-class’ of the two) was given a lesser sentence despite orchestrating the crime while Magwitch’s was much more severe as he appeared as “a common sort of wretch” to the courts. This form of discrimination seems so common at the time that Magwitch seems as if he was barely surprised as he tells his story. As if to add insult to injury, Magwitch recalls how Compeyson told them they were to have “no communication” as he knew if he associated himself with Magwitch he would receive a harsher sentence. This is one of the clearest examples of the upper-class exploiting the poor in addition to them being favored by the legal system.

Moreover, the themes of corruption within the courts run parallel in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ as well as ‘Great Expectations’. Just like Pip, Scout and Jem observe the legal system from a child’s perspective with no preconceptions and since the novel is from a first person perspective, what the reader learns is even more shocking. However, while ‘Great Expectations’ focuses on the corruption of lawyers and other officials, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is more concerned with the jury. One the greatest problems Atticus has to overcome while presenting his defense is the fact he is in front of a an all-white jury. This is a clear example of one of the failings of the courts as the jury is only able to identify with the victim and not with the defendant, especially given the racism present at the time. This immediately sets up a biased, unfair trial which Atticus is destined to lose. Lee already shows us this when, earlier in the novel, the jury is shown deciding on Tommy Robinson’s fate long before the trial. As far as this jury is concerned, justice is a privilege and not a right, especially when it comes to black people. This is possibly the most obvious shortcoming of the court system in the novel, with prejudice overriding any other virtues the legal system may have.

In summary, while both novels certainly portray the justice systems of their relative settings in an overwhelmingly negative light, we can see that the topics focused on by Lee and Dickens provide valuable insight into the differences between London and the American Deep South. While in London, the legal system is overridden by greed and class conflict, racism drives many of the decisions made within the American legal system at the time.

Works Cited

(1). Dr Diniejko A. “Charles Dickens as Social Commentator and Critic”. Warsaw University. 2012.

(2). “Great Expectations by Charles Dickens: A Book Review”. The Atlantic. 1861.

(2). Dominguez-Chio A. “To Kill a Mockingbird: Discrimination Against Race, Gender, and Class”. The Artifice. 2015.

(3). Stange G. “Expectations Well Lost Dickens’ Fable for His Time”. College English. 1954.

(4). Ransom R. “Literary Criticism of Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’”.

(5). Siegel R. “The Black Man and the Macabre in American Literature”. Black Literature Forum 10. 1976.

Justice in To Kill a Mockingbird

Justice and its relationship with prejudice is the central theme of the timeless 1960 novel, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Its focal point is the trial of Tom Robinson, an African-American erroneously charged with the rape of a white girl, Mayella Ewell. Racial prejudice is, of course, thoroughly explored in the novel. However, what originally transpires as discrimination develops into an inferno of injustice, particularly in the debasement and death of an innocent Samaritan, the impoverishment of his family and the humiliation of his race.The story is narrated by the protagonist, Scout, as an adult woman nostalgically recalling her early childhood over a two-year period. It is presented with the naivete and youth which characterise the observations of an innocent. Because Scout does not perceive or understand the full implications of what she sees and hears, Lee is able contrast the consistency, justice and honesty of children and the double standards, prejudice and sordid adult values inherent in her revelations and mature characters. The first half of the novel revolves around the Scout’s childhood in Maycomb, a fictional “tired old town” in Alabama, before the alleged rape to enlighten readers on the entire social backdrop and subconsciously groom the children for “Maycomb’s usual disease”. In the course of the novel, Lee uses the symbol of a mockingbird to articulate justice by stressing the sin of killing one, as it is utterly innocent and defenceless. Tom Robinson, convicted of crime he did not commit because of his race, and Boo Radley, imagined as a lunatic and monster by townspeople who consider him an outsider without attempting to seek the truth, are both metaphors for a slain mockingbird and for the perversion of justice. The language is appropriate for the various contexts and speakers of the book: Similes and metaphors are constantly used to creates images and emphasize major ideas, objects are personified to give a homely impression, and a range of dialects and southern colloquialisms are applied to attach authenticity and construct a social comment about a character. Notably, prejudiced and unprejudiced characters differentiate in their description of African-Americans and whether their relative poverty is a social or racial dilemma.Lee positions the plot during the height of the Great Depression when most Southerners believed in the inferiority of African-Americans and their desire for the possessions and status of Whites, including Anglo-Saxon women. The classroom preaching of “equal rights for all, special privileges for none” was far from the practiced reality. Scout ponders the hypocrisy of Miss Gate’s revulsion of Hitler’s persecution of Jews as well as her proclamation that “Over here we don’t believe in persecuting anybody” and her prejudice against African-Americans. Similarly, she learns of prejudice from Dolphus Raymond, a white man who pretends to be a drunkard to furnish townspeople with an explanation for his residing with his black mistress. Meanwhile, racial segregation is implicitly applauded by most citizens, such as Scout’s Aunt Alexandra, who believes that an individual’s superficial attributes, such as race, gender and class, deposits them within a definite rung in the social hierarchy. She discourages Scout from socialising with the Cunninghams, a family of the lower class, and from visiting the African-American Calpurnia’s home. The conduct of Maycomb’s white population towards African-Americans culminate in a society and judiciary that is openly discriminatory, making injustice inevitable. Tom Robinson is legally entitled to the benefits of a fair trial by his peers, the supposed impartiality of the jury and an assumption of innocence under the law. However, African-Americans are barred from the jury box, as are women (much to Scout’s indignation), while the incensed and racially prejudiced mob tries to prevent the court hearing itself. In the description of the courthouse, the supposed seat of blind justice, we learn African-Americans are legally required to be separated from white onlookers. The scene where four African-American men rise to give Scout and her companions their seats may appear as an act of respect for Atticus, but in truth the law demanded that the men the men to vacate their seats for any white citizen who desired them. Scout’s father, Atticus, believes that prejudice stems from a lack of understanding of other people’s opinions which leads to fear and intolerance. The community and all-white jury continuously assume “that all blacks lie, that all blacks are basically immoral beings” and take the word of white man over a black man, despite evidence proving otherwise, so the “rigid and time-honoured code” they live by is not upset. As Reverend Sykes says, “I ain’t ever seen any jury decide in favour of a coloured man over a white man.” Yet Atticus, who represents Robinson, launches the best defense he can, believing that the slight chance of justice offered by the legal system is the light of reason compared to the anarchy of the lynch mob. His shooting of the mad dog symbolises his resolve to suppress and protect his community from misguided prejudice, even if it means deviating from the norms of his personality and beliefs. He presents the certainty of facts and reason against the hypocrisy of prejudice born out of ignorance. However, Scout reveals a profound grasp of the situation when she says that “Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but 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”. It is possible to conclude from To Kill a Mockingbird that the extent of prejudice’s influence on the legal system results in injustice. Nowhere does it execute more damage than it does to Tom Robinson, a man who sets out to assist a neglected, forlorn girl but consequently ends up convicted of rape because his skin colour predetermines his guilt. However, the book also lights the path out of prejudice and injustice, which can be achieved if human beings purge themselves of hypocrisy and paranoia and separate the facts from preconceived assumptions by examining life and evidence with a child’s objectivity.

The Standards of Love

Every society has unwritten rules that everyone respects, and it is momentous when these boundaries are crossed. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee develops the argument that love creates a loyalty that can overcome any standards. The author explores this idea when Cal takes Jem and Scout to church, when Scout refrains from fighting for Atticus, and when Atticus decides to defend Tom Robinson.

Love often develops in situations contrary to social norms, but when it does the resulting loyalty is even stronger. When Atticus leaves Jem and Scout for a weekend and forgets to tell Calpurnia directions about where the children should attend church, Cal decides to take them with her to the local black church. In times of segregation, this is a surprising decision. When the presence of two white children is questioned, Cal does not sway, asserting, “They’s my compn’y” (Lee 119). This decisiveness about a risky decision on her part demonstrates her loyalty towards the children and willingness to protect them no matter the circumstance. Cal clearly loves and trusts Jem and Scout enough to share an intimate part of her culture with them and never leaves their side even when put under fire by part of her own community. Cal also goes overboard preparing Jem and Scout for church because she doesn’t “want anybody sayin’ I don’t look after my children” (Lee 118). Cal’s referral to Jem and Scout as ‘her’ children shows she feels almost familial ties with them. The time period of this story makes what Cal feels even more significant. According to the social norms of these times, blacks should be separate from whites. Her contrary views are born from love and result in her perpetual protection of the children.

The loyalty strong love creates can often result in even more boundaries to cross, but the same powerful feelings ensure that no one will be let down. Atticus creates an uproar in Maycomb when he decides to defend Tom Robinson when he is accused of rape. Tom Robinson is a black man, and the citizens of Maycomb express many bigoted viewpoints towards the situation. When children hear their parents expressing displeasure about Atticus’s decision, they use it to taunt Scout at school. Cecil Jacobs frequently takes things too far, calling Atticus disrespectful names in front of Scout. Scout’s nature is to fight and defend the people she loves. She explains to Uncle Jack that she’ll “swear before God if [she’ll] sit there and let someone say something about Atticus” (Lee 86) This protectiveness and loyalty of her father goes against a stereotypical ‘girl,’ but Scout’s love of Atticus goes a long way in changing her actions. After a scuffle with Cecil at school, Atticus urges Scout to use her head instead of her fists. When Cecil taunts Scout the next day, Scout “drew a bead on him, remembered what Atticus had said, then dropped [her] fists and walked away, ‘Scout’s a coward!’ ringing in [her] ears” (Lee 76). Atticus’s urgings force Scout to walk away for fear of letting him down. Her love for him causes her to dramatically alter her ways and do something that hurt her own reputation. This kind of selfless loyalty completely changes Scout’s actions from their ‘norm,’ and is brought around by respect for Atticus.

This love not only reaches from person to person but also from person to ideal. Atticus’s passion for fairness and justice affects the course of his life when he feels morally obligated to defend Tom Robinson against accusations of rape. In this run-of-the-mill southern town, Atticus’s decision astounds most for what they perceive as going against their society’s attitudes. Atticus’s love dictates where his loyalty lies. He views American courts as “great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal” (Lee 205). He would rather stand with the views of a court than the views of his town, and although he drastically alters the status quo in Maycomb his loyalty wouldn’t allow him to do anything else. He feels it is his personal duty to uphold equality. As he explains to Scout, “every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally” (Lee 75). Atticus believes this to be his ‘case.’ It is significant to him because while society urges him in one direction, his entire belief system and moral ideology drags him in another. It is a dilemma that he knows the solution to and is ready to reach; yet his community stands united with the opposing idea. His love for justice creates a loyalty strong enough to overcome his ties with his town and push him against the views of his peers.

Pressure from commonly accepted views does a great deal to make people who they are, but love does even more to create ties that disregard accepted values and overcome common judgments. In To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee develops the argument that loyalty born from love possesses the power to leave behind restricting stereotypes or previously held ideals.

Jem and Gender, Calpurnia and Race: Challenging and Defying Stereotypes in To Kill a Mockingbird

In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, multiple characters defy stereotypes made about them and are even able to change opinions and lifestyles of people around them. The book takes place in Maycomb County, Alabama during the 1930s. The book centers around one family: two children — Jem, the older brother, and Scout, the younger sister — Atticus the father, and their housekeeper, Calpurnia, . Because of the time and place in which the book takes place, many white supremacists hold stereotypes relating to race, gender, socioeconomic status, and religion. But, regardless of the setting, there are still some characters who are able to challenge these stereotypes. For example, Scout defies gender stereotypes by playing with boys and wearing overalls, rather than spending time doing stereotypical girl activities and wearing dresses. She creates change in the community by changing her aunt’s outlook on gender stereotypes. Likewise, Calpurnia challenges racial stereotypes by being educated and able to educate others, as well as by being seen and treated as an equal in the Finch household. Calpurnia creates change in the community by making it easier to pray in church without being able to read and changing the way one white family views African American people. Scout is able to defy stereotypes about her gender and change the beliefs of her aunt, while Calpurnia defies is able to defy racial stereotypes and change the lives of the African American community and Finch family.

Notable for playing outside with her brother and male friend and wearing boys’ clothes, Scout is able to challenge the stereotype that all girls should wear dresses and play indoors. Stereotypically, girls enjoy more gentle, quiet games, typically indoors, but not Scout. While talking about activities that she enjoys, she says, “Jem and I always enjoyed the free run of Ms. Maudie’s yard” (55). This proves that she defies her gender stereotypes because while many other 1930 Maycomb County girls are playing indoors with dolls or a tea set, Scout is running around and playing rougher games outdoors with her brother and “running free.” Scout’s aunt, Aunt Alexandra, holds these gender stereotypes and wants Scout to be more ladylike and wear dresses instead of overalls. After both Scout and Jem are almost killed, Aunt Alexandra helps Scout by taking off the costume she had been wearing and giving her clothes to put on. But even though she hates when Scout wears overalls, she gives them to her and says, “‘Put these on, darling,’ she said, handing me the garments she most despised” (354). This shows that Scout starts to change the stereotypes in the town because she is able to make one of the people holding this stereotype think that it is okay for her to wear masculine clothing, to the point where she even encouraged her to put them on, even though it is the item of clothing that she used to “most despise.” The fact that Scout would rather wear boys’ clothes proves that she is not a typical girl and challenges the stereotypes for her gender in her aunt’s eyes. Scout is able to defy her gender stereotypes and change her aunt’s opinion about how girls should act and dress.

By knowing how to read perfectly and teaching her son how to read, Calpurnia defies the stereotype held by white supremacists in Maycomb that all African American people are uneducated. This stereotype was most likely created because this book took place in a time and place when many African Americans did not have the opportunity to have an education equal to white people. Calpurnia, however, was able to receive and education and even taught her son, Zeebo, how to read. Because she taught Zeebo how to read, they are able to help the people in their church who do not know how to read. They do this by call and repeat: Zeebo reads a line, the congregation repeats it, and so on. The author explains this by saying, “Zeebo cleared his throat and mumbled in a distant artillery ‘There’s a land beyond the river.’ Miraculously on pitch, hundreds of voices sang out Zeebo’s exact words” (161). The congregation doesn’t have to be able to read the scripture, they just have to repeat “Zeebo’s exact words.” This shows how when one person knows how to read (and is able to teach another person), it can change the way hundreds of people pray. Because of Zeebo, they can all pray the hymns in the book that they otherwise would not be able to pray.

Calpurnia is also able to defy racial stereotypes and evoke change in Maycomb County by being treated as an equal in Finch family. Calpurnia is their housekeeper, but she is also their only maternal figure, so when Scout is mad at Calpurnia for scolding her for behavior, Atticus defends Calpurnia by saying, “I’ve no intention of getting rid of her, now or ever. We couldn’t operate a single day without Cal” (33). Typically in Maycomb County, the housekeeper is seen only as a provider of services, but is very rarely the maternal figure of the family. In the Finch family, they rely so much on her that Atticus thinks that they would, “not be able to go a day without her.” Calpurnia is able to affect racial stereotypes by being educated and serving as an equal in the Finch household, and therefore changes the way the people in her church pray and one white family views her status as an African American person.

Scout and Calpurnia defy stereotypes and change certain aspects of the town in which they live. Scout, is able to change the sexist, gender-restricting beliefs of her aunt. Calpurnia changes the way hundreds of people pray and how one white family views African American people. Just two people defying stereotypes can change the beliefs and lives of many people in their community.

Understanding the Meaning of the Books Mentioned in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”

In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, a variety of allusions to other works of literature arise, suggesting to the adept reader their significance to the plot and in our understanding of many characters and themes. Two books of special importance, Ivanhoe and The Gray Ghost – as these two are of particular importance and are mentioned relatively more than the others, but also about other more minor books such as The Rover Boys, Tarzan, Tom Swift, Meditations of Joshua S. St. Clair, and the magazine Popular Mechanics. Tarzan, The Rover Boy, and Tom Swift are all mentioned very early in the book and all in one sentence. They are mentioned by Jean-Louise as the books they (they being Jem, Dill, and Jean) reenacted in their summer-games. All three of these books are about children growing up, a central and complex theme of Lee’s own novel.

Tarzan is about a feral child – John Clayton, the son of two marooned Englishmen – Alice and John. Clayton, is adopted by the she-ape, Kala, after his parents are killed by the king-ape Kerchak. It could be important to mention that Tarzan – the name Clayton is given by the apes – literally means “white-skin” in the apes’ language. It is this difference, between Tarzan and his adopted ape family, which drives Tarzan away. Apart from the obvious theme of growing up that is apparent in both Tarzan and To Kill a Mockingbird, there is the theme of a different appearance, ironically in Tarzan it is the white skin and in To Kill a Mockingbird it is the black skin, which drives a wedge between people. Both The Rover Boys and Tom Swift are about children thinking in a different way from adults. The Rover Boys is about a group of children – Sam, Tom, and Dick – who run around almost completely unsupervised (slightly reminiscent of Jem, Dill, and Jean) solving crimes and stopping adults acting in wrongful ways. For example in The Rover Boys in School the kids manage to get one of their father’s business enemies, and part-time criminal, Arnold Baxter arrested after he arranged for Dick’s watch – which was given to him by his father many years age – by a tramp. Tom Swift is about a young child-inventor and his tinkering and inventing his way through his father’s company Swift Construction Company. Throughout the series Tom develops inventions such as the ‘electric rifle’, a sort of Taser Gun, and the ‘photo telephone’. In my opinion both of these series are largely about the way youngsters think differently and sometimes more expansively than adults. This theme is also present in To Kill a Mockingbird where Lee stresses the point that the children, most prominently Jean and Jem, think in a more innocent, and sometimes purer way than the adults. This is displayed in the ­­­scene outside the courthouse where ­­­­Mr. Dolphus Raymond is not afraid to show the children he is not in fact a drunkard but is only pretending to be one, because they can understand him.

In addition, the fact that at the end of the book, Jem is seen reading from the magazine Popular Mechanics suggests to me that he has grown up. In my opinion the fact that Lee has decided to have Jem move from a book about an entrepreneur – Tom Swift – to reading about other’s inventions in Popular Mechanics shows us that Jem has grown up, a very prominent theme in To Kill a Mockingbird, and with growing up he has lost the advantages of a child’s mind, the ability to sympathise with and understand those around him without prejudice. Ivanhoe appears in To Kill a Mockingbird as the book Jem reads to Mrs. Dubose to atone for destroying her flowers. Ivanhoe was published in the beginning of the nineteenth-century by Sir Walter Scott about England after the failed Third Crusade. The book is about Ivanhoe, a twelfth-century Englishman, who returns from a campaign in The Holy Land. During the novel, Ivanhoe’s intended is kidnapped by one of the main antagonists – Sir Brian de-Boise Gilbert. De-Boise is a corrupt Templar knight and close friend of Prince John. During a trial for the life of Ivanhoe’s intended, which is settled by a melee between Ivanhoe and de-Boise, de-Boise suffers from a heart attack and dies. The returned King Charles takes this as a sign of his guilt and Ivanhoe’s intended’s innocence. I think Lee chose this book to be read to Mrs. Dubose for a very specific reason. In my opinion, the fact that the name de-Boise is pronounced very similarly to that of Mrs. Dubose is no coincidence. I believe the reason for this is so that we, the readers, will understand what Lee’s real opinion is of Mrs. Dubose. That opinion being that even though she is portrayed as being brave and virtuous, the fact that her death is so similar to that of de-Boise’s shows that, she is in fact guilty. The fact that she died bravely does not repent for her evilness toward Jem, Jean and everyone in general. The irony of this is that while Jem is there repenting for his actions, those actions being destroying Mrs. Dubose’s flowers and Jean’s baton, Mrs. Dubose is there supposedly repenting for all her life’s meanness, but in fact just adding to it by making Jem’s and Jean’s time there awful.

The book Meditations of Joshua S. St. Clair is mentioned in To Kill a Mockingbird when it is brought in by Jean and Jem’s Aunt Alexandra as she is trying to impress upon them the importance of their family’s legacy. Throughout the book, the idea of family classification, and family legacy is very prominent. The idea of family classification is that each family has a “streak”, to put it in Aunt Alexandra’s words, or a characteristic that every member of that family display. You can see this from the beginning of the book where Jean says it is “a source of shame to some members of the family that we had no recorded ancestors on either side of the Battle of Hastings”, the Battle of Hastings being a battle that was fought between the Anglo-Saxon King Harold II and Duke William II of Normandy taking place in 1066. The family characteristics can be seen very prominently as Jean describes Walter Cunningham to Miss Caroline. As she is describing his predicament to her, she uses phrases such as “he is a Cunningham” and “The Cunningham’s Never took anything they can’t pay back”, as if all Cunningham’s acted and thought in the same way. All of this can be seen in the way Aunt Alexandra talks to Jem and Jean about their Cousin Joshua. She describes him as “a beautiful character” whereas Atticus, not such a romantic when it comes to his family legacy, had described Joshua to his children as he was – a sewer inspector who had tried to murder the president, and who had cost the family quite a lot of money after failing horrendously. I believe Harper Lee brought in the book so that we could appreciate the different approaches about family that are so prominent in the Finch family. On the one hand, you have Aunt Alexandra who romanticizes about her family’s past, all the while making it grander and more supercilious with each telling. Whereas, Atticus’s approach is based on facts. Moreover, Atticus does not feel he needs to oversell his family history or even mention it; Atticus is a man of the present not a romantic of the past.

The story of The Gray Ghost is mentioned only twice throughout the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. It is about a group of young rascals led by Hawkins who have a run-in with their old antagonist – Stoner’s Boy. At the beginning of the novel, they glimpse Stoner’s Boy, leaving their hideout in a mess and spattered in ink. Throughout the novel, the gang tries to catch Stoner’s Boy and identify him – on account if his neckerchief hiding his face. Toward the end of the novel, they do find him but realize he was not really responsible for all they had thought he had done. At the end of the novel, a gnu escapes the local zoo and chases Stoner’s Boy and his father who dies rescuing his son. It is eventually killed by an accomplice of Stoner’s. Following this traumatic experience Stoner’s Boy decides to leave for New Orleans as repentance for his misdoings. It is mentioned first at the beginning of the book, when Dill bets Jem The Gray Ghost for two Tom Swifts if he touches the Radley front door. The second appearance of the book is when Atticus is sitting beside Jem’s sickbed and he finds himself reading The Gray Ghost, when asked by Jean why he chose that specific book he replies “I don’t know… One of the few things I haven’t read.” this of course is ironic on Lee’s part as Atticus is the embodiment of The Gray Ghost’s moral – not to judge the other by his appearance but by his mettle. After Atticus finishes reading the story to Jean she tries to summarize the book, but mixes in aspects of her own adventures with Arthur Radley taking the part of Stoner’s Boy saying “when they finally saw him… he was real nice.” A description much more similar to Jean’s thoughts on Arthur than Hawkins’ on Stoner’s Boy. Atticus summarizes the moral of both stories by replying “Most people are [real nice]… when you get to know them .” Referring to the kids’ experience with Arthur Radley.

The value of adding these specific books and stories – Tom Swift, Tarzan, The Rover Boys, Ivanhoe, The Gray Ghost, Meditations of Joshua S. St. Clair and the magazine Popular Mechanics – in To Kill a Mockingbird is a much deeper understanding of the book’s morals. This is accomplished by Lee’s excellent writing techniques and the reader’s willingness to look deeper into the books’ symbolic attributes. As I have explained the meaning of Tarzan’s inclusion is to show us the irony that comes from comparing the two. Of how in both a character is persecuted for being different than his surrounding society, only in one it is a little white boy who is different than a tribe of apes and in the other it is a black man who is different than the white society. Tom Swift’s and The Rover Boys’ addition to the book is to emphasize to us the virtues of childhood. These virtues are, in Tom Swift and The Rover Boys, the ability to think in a way that adults cannot- for example, being able to solve crimes and invent groundbreaking technological advancements. These are similar virtues to the ones Lee tries to show – that children can look at the world with innocent eyes and without prejudice.