Moral Principles in Harper Lee’s Novel To Kill a Mockingbird Essay
Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird is set in a fictional Southern town Maycomb during the Great Depression. The narrator Scout Finch describes Maycomb as “tired” and “old” (Lee, 1998, p 6). The main character says, “A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer” (p 6). In this way the author wants to emphasize an idea that this is a place where time virtually came to a standstill. Judging from the first eleven chapters, a reader can deduce that Maycomb is a very small community in which people know one another very well.
Furthermore, Harper Lee shows that this is a town where racial prejudices and stereotypes are still prevalent (Lee & Bloom, 2010, p 71). Finally, it should be pointed out that these people live during the time of economic crisis which affects every layer of the population. To some extent, this only intensifies racial animosity in this place.
Harper Lee explores a great number of themes in the first chapters of the novel, for example, integrity of a person and his/her ability contradict the norms, adopted in the community. This question is particularly important when one speaks about Atticus Finch and his willingness to defend a black man Tom Robinson even despite the fact that other people ostracize him.
Other important themes include the gender roles, the generation gap and relations between parents and children, class differences and racial stereotypes. A person, who has not read the novel up to the end, can hardly predict how the themes are going to develop. Yet, one can assume that the core of this novel will be the conflict between Atticus Finch’s values and those ones of the community.
The main characters introduced in the first chapters of the novel are Atticus Finch and his children Scout and Jem. The author let us know that Atticus raises his children on his own; his wife died several years ago and he never remarried. To a great extent, Atticus is greatly assisted by a family’s housekeeper, Calpurnia, to whom both this family feels greatly attached. Another important character is Dill Harris, a friend of Scout and Jem.
Unlike his friend, Dill comes from a very poor family and he often lacks money even for food (Lee, 1998, p 9). From the very start, Harper Lee indicates that Atticus will be at the center of the novel. For example, his children, especially Scout, continuously ask him for his moral judgment, and he produces an impression of being a very honest person. Thus, the readers want to find out if he will be able to adhere to his principles in the future.
As it has been said before, the main conflict described by the writer is the differences between personal values and moral principles and the norms adopted in the community. Yet, there are other conflicts in the novel, for example, the confrontation between the forces of modernity and conservatism.
Additionally, we should mention the so-called clash of generations, in particular the willingness of parents to protect their children from any kind of threat, on the one hand, and children’s willingness to explore the world and become independent.
This story is told from the perspective of Scout Finch, a six-year old girl (Lee, 1998, p 9). However, she does not sound her age. If we look at her narrative from pure linguistic point of view, we can say her vocabulary is very rich, and her grammar is practically impeccable.
More importantly, Scout Finch is also able to capture complex moral issues and dilemmas, although she cannot solve them. Such attentiveness to the complexity of ethics is not typical of a six-year old child. This suggests that Harper Lee’s voice is more prominent, and that the author greatly relied on memoir technique while writing this book.
Lee H. (1988). To Kill a Mockingbird. NY: Grand Central Publishing.
Lee H. & Bloom H. 2010 To Kill a Mockingbird. Bloom’s Guides. Infobase Publishing.
The Problem of Racism and Injustice in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee Research Paper
In spite of the fact the moral concepts are the basic principles according to which people regulate their lives and interpersonal relationships, these principles are often broken, and any person can experience problems in his or her interacting with the society.
Sometimes, people become opposite to the societies with their developed hierarchy and stereotypes because of their differences. The problem of the social inequality is one of the most controversial questions in the world, and it is closely associated with the issue of racism and prejudice.
The theme of the human’s opposition to the society is discussed in To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee. It was the most provocative novel of the 1960s which influenced the social discussions and revealed the problematic aspects of the democratic American society. To analyze the basic ideas of the novel, it is necessary to examine it with the help of formalism as an approach to concentrate not only on the topic but also on the author’s methods to present it.
In the novel, Harper Lee demonstrates her vision of the question of the social inequality with references to the problem of racism in the society based on prejudice and absence of actual principles of tolerance and justice, and this vision is given through the eyes of children with their morality and innocence as an important point to emphasize the issue’s controversy.
It is possible to state that Harper Lee uses the character of Scout as the story’s narrator not only to accentuate the lack of morality in the society but also to emphasize the links between her own experience and the problem discussed in the novel. Harper Lee was born in the family of an attorney in 1926.
Being a child, Lee observed the injustice of the social relations in the 1930s which were based on the racial discrimination and the lack of tolerance. Thus, these peculiarities of Lee’s perception of the situation and definite biographical details were depicted through Scout’s eyes in To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee did not write any other novel, but her first experience in writing with accentuating the most problematic social issues was so successful and remarkable that the novel became the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 (Shields).
To present the discussion of the problems of racism, intolerance, and injustice in the American society of the 1930s with referring to the situation of the 1960s, Harper Lee chooses to depict a story about Atticus Finch, an attorney, who defends an Afro-American man accused of raping because he believes in this man’s innocence and rejects the law of prejudice developed in the society.
The events of the story are presented through the eyes of Finch’s daughter Scout. Following the details of the girl’s perception of the situation and the mature analysis of the definite facts, it is possible to conclude that the story is spoken by a young woman who rethought all its aspects. From this point, the problem of innocence is depicted in the novel with the help of rejecting Tim Robinson’s innocence and the innocence of the children’s consideration.
Thus, Harper Lee provides her “version of an age of innocence. Literally, she is using what we perceive as the innocence of childhood and a small town’s ‘nothing happening’ existence, which upon closer examination is merely the complex mutual dissimulation of innocence” (Blackford 280). Innocence is one of the main concepts of the novel which is discussed from different perspectives.
It is important to note that social tensions which depend on the progress of prejudice are typical for many societies and any settings during different periods. Presenting the situation in provincial Maycomb, Alabama, which developed in the 1930s, Harper Lee also reflected the social problems of the American society in the 1960s. It was still based on the strict principles of the hierarchy. In this case, racism is discussed as the problem which is not limited by any time fringes.
Atticus Finch presents his vision of the issue saying to the children, “you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but…whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, he is trash” (Lee 365). It is possible to accuse even an innocent man when social inequality and injustice are based on the lack of moral principles in the society and humanity in the people’s relations.
Tolerance and humanity are reflected in the characters of Atticus Finch and his children. Their considerations about the other people do not depend on any biases because these persons perceive the others as individuals, but not as different ones. The understanding of the problems of social inequality is presented in Scout’s considerations. Murphy states, “In her youthful innocence, she was asking all the right questions” (Murphy 64).
If Scout represents the possible innocent perception of the unhealthy situation in the society, Finch tries to fight with the system to overcome injustice. Wood pays attention to the fact that Atticus “seems to understand that lasting legal change will not succeed unless people’s hearts and minds also change, unless the law embodies the highest and best values of collective society, and unless the law is flexible enough to accommodate special circumstances” (Wood 82).
Is it possible to be opposite to the society with its stereotypes and prove the logic of the person’s position when nobody wants to support it? Defending Tom Robinson, Atticus Finch experiences the necessity to resist the opposition of the intolerant society in order to maintain his point of view.
Harper Lee draws the readers’ attention to the controversial point that it is rather difficult for one person to convince the whole society to believe in the innocence of a ‘black’ man when all these people depend in their considerations on the developed biases. The conflict of the novel is in the opposition of the man who has healthy ideas about the laws of the society according to which people should interact with each other and the public which is used to live depending on the ideas of racism and significance of the social status.
To accentuate the inability of the public to react to the reality and express the signs of tolerance, Lee states that “people generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for” (Lee 286).
That is why, the conflict of the person and society in the novel is resolved with the triumph of inhumanity and injustice which are dependent on the strengths of the social stereotypes and prejudice. The strong will of one person and his persuasions about the basic social principles are not enough to overcome the biases which were developed during the years.
At first sight, the readers can consider the title of the novel as inappropriate for the book, but it is rather symbolic and reflects the novel’s theme. ‘Mockingbirds’ are the symbolic depictions of the innocent people in the novel who can suffer from the racial or social discrimination against them. Is it necessary to kill a mockingbird? Are there any threats for people? “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy…they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.
That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” (Lee 148). Nevertheless, the society is often cruel, and innocent ‘mockingbirds’ are killed the first because they reflect the social imperfectness. That is why, the theme of racism and the social injustice is symbolically presented in the title of the novel as the accentuation of the lack of reasonability in any kind of discrimination.
In spite of the fact the story depicted in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird develops in the 1930s, the problems discussed in the novel can be considered as the main social challenges which do not depend on the period of time. The question of the social inequality and the problem of racism as its reflection are controversial issues, the discussion of which should be based on the ideas of tolerance and justice.
Harper Lee pays attention to the fact that it is a sad phenomenon when the question of innocence is changed with a question of race. Moreover, the society can be considered as sick when the principles of humanity are based on the definite social status. All these aspects are emphasized by Harper Lee’s conclusion when innocence, tolerance, and justice are just words.
Blackford, Holly. “Awakening Passing and Passing Out”. Mockingbird Passing: Closeted Traditions and Sexual Curiosities in Harper Lee’s Novel. Ed. Holly Blackford. USA: University of Tennessee Press, 2011. 261-315. Print.
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. USA: Harper, 2010. Print.
Murphy, Mary. Scout, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird. USA: Harper, 2010. Print.
Shields, Charles J. Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. USA: Holt Paperbacks, 2007. Print.
Wood, Jeffrey B. “Bending the Law: The Search for Justice and Moral Purpose”. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: New Essays. Ed. Michael J. Meyer. USA: Scarecrow Press, 2010. Print.
American Novel: “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee Essay
In the novel entitled “To Kill a Mockingbird”, white and racial prejudice has been clearly brought out through the role-play of various characters. To begin with, Maycomb presents overcomplicated social hierarchy that eventually leads to social disharmony and lack of equality. As a result, children are surprised by the constant ins and outs. At the top of Maycomb’s hierarchy, the well-off Finches can be found. Those who are below the social ladder are mostly the black town men.
Besides, under the townspeople, there are a number of primitive individuals such as Cunninghams. The Ewells are equally controlling most of the black people. This explains why Tom Robinson was eventually persecuted. The social divisions ate evidently rigid in this society. Aunt Alexandra restricts any form of interaction between Scout and Walter just because they are from different races. These characters clearly depict the symbols of white and racial prejudice. This tendency baffles Scout. On the same note, class status is questioned and critiqued by Lee.
When I was reading through the novel, I found it quite involving because of the several characters taking part in the various scenes. However, it was an interesting experience because racism and social inequality are common experiences that most of us have either learned in literature or experienced at a personal level. In order to fully understand the novel, I began by contextualizing the text on aspects such as the setting of the book, authorship, historical significance and its overall purpose to the targeted audience.
Other areas that I focused on during the assignment included plot overview, characters (and their respective roles), themes as well as the summary and analysis of each chapter. Even though the whole assignment was very involving (because it required thorough understanding of the book), I eventually enjoyed the various themes and motifs depicted in various chapters. It is also worth to mention that the novel is indeed relevant to its readership because it mirrors the nature of society affected by racism and inequality.
From the above assignment, I learned that a society can be easily divided by racism even though the aspect of race itself is not evil. In fact, when we propagate the strengths of our unique races at the expense of other races, we stand a higher chance of transforming into racists. The latter vice is capable of claiming the dignity of a whole society of people who have been prejudiced.
In regards to my background with people who are different from me, I have interacted with individuals from different races with a lot of ease. In other words, I find it enjoyable and an experience to reckon when I meet people from different races. However, some of them may not be willing or ready to mingle with other races. This does not hinder me from reaching them out and create long-lasting relationships.
It is indeed important to promote inclusiveness especially in a world perpetuated by racial prejudice. A society that is limited to certain people only is bound to fail both in terms of social and economic progress. Inclusiveness is important to me because it broadens my perspective in life when I connect with other people from different races. Through the act of inclusiveness, I am in a position to balance both my personal and career life at workplace. As already hinted out, I have promoted inclusiveness by making friends from all races and always valuing their diverse opinions. Finally, this assignment has positively impacted my thinking because I am now in a position to sincerely empathize with those victimized by racism.
Novel Appreciation: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee Essay (Book Review)
Very few writers are able to create narratives that can be both entertaining and intellectually demanding at the same time. This thought continuously plagues students who are forced to incorporate the so-called “must-read” books in their intellectual repertoire. Unfortunately, this approach can sometimes completely stifle a person’s interest for literature of any kind.
This sense of disappointment can be familiar to many readers, especially those ones who study fiction at a professional level. Yet, Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the rare exceptions that retain its popularity even despite significant changes in the literary canon in the second half of the twentieth century. In particular, it proves to be an exciting reading experience and prompts the audience to reflect upon the nature of moral choices that an individual has to take.
This novel gives a person deep insights into the life of American South in the early thirties, at the time when the country was passing a dramatic turning point in its history. The author enables the audience to immerse into the fictional world of the Deep South and its complexities. The plot of the novel revolves around Atticus Finch and his children. He is a lawyer who desperately struggles to protect an unjustly accused Tom Robinson.
Atticus is aware that this accusation is mostly driven racial prejudices, rather than solid evidence, but his attempts are of no concern to other people who are mostly driven by their prejudices and biases. This narrative may not seem too sophisticated at first glance; it gives rise to many remarkable characters and themes that retain their relevance and vitality.
The contemporary discussion of this novel is often tied to the question of racism; nevertheless, I’m convinced that this book can be of great interest to modern readers, and I’d like to discuss this claim in greater detail.
Arguably, the most striking element in this novel is its narrator. Scout Finch1 is a six-year-old girl who tries to make meaning of other people’s behavior. If you do not know much about this book, you may certainly ask why on earth I need to read ramblings of a child. However, this misgiving turns out to be groundless as soon as a person starts reading the book. The most surprising thing is that Scout combines serenity and naivety that make the reader look at the world through the eyes of this child.
This is one of the details that have often captivated me. One may just look at her description of Maycomb, “Maycomb2 was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop. … There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County”(Lee 6). In this way, the author introduces us into a small Southern town struggling through the Great Depression.
Admittedly, this narrator is slightly unrealistic, because one can hardly expect a six-year-old girl to be so insightful, attentive, and sophisticated. It is not likely that a child may use expressions like “vague optimism” in her speech (Lee 6). Nevertheless, this limitation does not undermine the credibility of this book because the characters portrayed by the author can gain the trust of the audience. This argument is particularly relevant if one discusses children who explore the surrounding and discover both beauty and injustice.
For instance, Scout is completely puzzled by the fact that people can be dehumanized only due to the color of their skin. Unfortunately, many adults, who surround her, take these norms for granted. This sense of misunderstanding can remind many of readers of their own childhood and their attempts to understand why adults can act foolishly or even cruelly. In turn, Harper Lee can describe the experiences of a child in a very engaging way.
Although, this novel includes the elements of the Bildungsroman3 depicting the intellectual growth of a child (Mills 61), Harper Lee is also able to explore the concepts of justice and injustice in the American society (Mills 61). In many cases, post-modern literature is strangely silent on this topic. One should keep in mind that this book is partly based on Harper Lee’s childhood experiences, and she was a direct witness to the problems affecting the community.
In particular, the author focuses on the prejudiced attitudes against black people who could be marginalized by the existing institutions. At the same time, this novel evokes the memories of childhood which is full of unexpected discoveries and joys. However, the most remarkable thing is the way in which the protagonist tries to overcome her fears.
This argument is relevant if one speaks about her relations with Arthur Radley who is often viewed as a mystical monster by other children. Yet, it eventually turns out that children’s beliefs are completely unjustified. To a great extent, Harper Lee meticulously captures the experiences of a child who cannot easily accept the unknown. It seems that very few writers are able to achieve this degree of realism. This is the reasons why this book continues to be of great interest to readers representing different generations and cultures.
This novel is also remarkable because it highlights the importance of moral education without being too obtrusive. Much attention should be paid to Atticus Finch who is able to act as a role model without imposing his opinions on Scout and Jem. As a rule, such attempts are doomed to failure and he chooses a different strategy by encouraging children to think critically.
It is possible to say that moral education is one of the themes that are looked down upon in the post-modern literature. In contrast, Harper Lee is able to show how art and ethics can be reconciled. This attribute of the novel makes readers place themselves in the position of Atticus and Scout who are able to combine kindness and intelligence. So, to some degree, Harper Lee sets an example for parents who need to understand how to influence the behavior of children.
Admittedly, modern critics do not pay much attention to this novel since it doesn’t entirely belong to the post-modern age. Contemporary literary canon lays too much stress on the use of allusions and inter-textual references. However, one should keep in mind that very often, critics prove to be mistaken and in many cases, they can just overlook true literary masterpieces. To Kill a Mocking Bird is one of the literary works that can be better appreciated in the future. This is one of the hopes that I cherish.
Older readers know about this book mostly due to the eponymous film directed by Robert Mulligan. The roles of Scout and Atticus were masterfully played by Mary Badham and Gregory Peck whose performances are still memorable. Nevertheless, reading this novel is a more fulfilling experience that enables a person to relive the moments of childhood. This is why it is worth reading.
At the same time, this novel has a very complex historical background demonstrating how American societies struggled through racism and economic depression that threaten the very survival of many people. It is also possible to say the author shows how people can retain their humanity despite the prevalent stereotypes and dominant social conditions.
The main strength of Harper Lee is that she is able to explore the connections between social and individual forces. In turn, readers are prompted to examine these relations more closely. The main issue is that this examination is both engaging and thought-provoking.
Despite possible limitations, this novel is the fiction that that combines intellectualism and breath-taking narrative that makes readers emphasize with Scout, Atticus, and Jem. To a great extent, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the books that retain the status of a classic work without being boring. Admittedly, this novel depicts the problems that do not seem to be relevant to the modern societies.
However, the author is able to create characters who seem to override cultural and age differences. More importantly, the ethical questions that they ask have not lost their meaning. So, reading this novel can still prove a rewarding experience. This book combines naivety and shrewdness, and this combination distinguishes it among other literary works.
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird, New York: Grand Central Publishing, 1988. Print.
Mills, Catriona. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, New York: Insight Publications, 2011. Print.
1 Her real name is Jean Louise, but other people call her Scout.
2 Don’t try to locate this town on the map. It is a fictional place imbedded in the fictional universe created by the author.
3 The novel describing the psychological and moral development of a person.
Racism in “To Kill Mocking Bird” by Harper Lee Essay
First published in 1960, the novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960 for presenting the themes of the racial injustice and oppression of the innocent blacks in southern states. The author draws her own childhood experiences in the state of Alabama where racism and poverty were major social problems in the early and the mid 20th century. In this book, the author tells the story from a perspective of a young white girl, Scout Finch, whose family emigrated from England to settle in American South during the Jim Crow era.
The family is transformed from poverty to wealth, but it remains one of the few white families ready to accommodate and recognize the black people as a part of the society, while other Whites oppress and discriminate them. Evidently, the book provides an analysis that attempts to show the impact of racism in American south, clearly showing that the problem does not only affect the Blacks, but the entire society in general.
Scout Finch, the narrator, is a young girl living in Maycomb, a sleepy town in Alabama, with her father Atticus and brother, Jem. The father is a widower, having lost his wife some years before. The story is set during the Great Depression, when American societies were experiencing a harsh economic period. However, Atticus, a prominent lawyer who emigrated from Britain to settle in Alabama, has made fortune due to his hard work. In fact, it is evident that the family is financially well off as compared to their impoverished neighbours. A few years after their settlement in the town, Jem and Scout have made a new friend, Dill, a young boy who later becomes their associate in telling the story.
As the trio plays in the streets, they become fascinated by a certain spooky house called the Radley Place, which is owned by Mr. Nathan Radley but occupied Arthur Boo, Nathan’s brother. The man is quite mysterious and does not venture out, but the townspeople do not dare interfere in his life.
Scout goes to school for the first time during a fall, but it is evident that the girl does not like school life. During their play close to the Radley Place, Scout and Jem find gifts left in a knothole of the tree. Apparently, the gifts are meant for the three children because they normally play close to the tree. The three decide to find out who Boo is and why he acts in a strange manner. However, when they sneak into the Radley Place, Nathan shoots at them, so they escape. During the escape, Jem loses his pants, but then he is surprised to find them mended and hung over their fence.
Atticus agrees to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a young white woman, as a protest against racism. Atticus finds that Mayella and her father, Bob Ewell, are lying and that there was no rape on her. He also establishes that Mayella was seeking to lure Tom into sex, but Bob Ewell, a town drunk, beat her.
A shaking moment
Although Atticus has established the truth, the jury finds Tom Robinson guilty of the rape and convicts him. Several months later, the young Robinson attempts to escape from prison, but is shot dead. This event haunts Atticus’ image in his society.
Meanwhile, Ewell seeks to punish Atticus for defending the black man. He goes on to spit in Atticus’ face while on the streets. Finally, he attacks Atticus’ children one night as they leave school, but Boo Radley saves them. Jem survives though his arm is broken, but it is later established that Bob Ewell died in the struggle, having fell on his own knife.
After the attack, a mysterious Boo Radley voluntarily accompanies the children right up to the door of their house, but then disappears once again. It is evident that this man is not social, but he is a friendly and kind man who cares for the welfare of the children. In addition, it is evident that Boo seeks friendship with his neighbours, but he is apparently shy or afraid of presenting himself to them.
As the young Scout says goodbye to Boo Radley, it occurs to her that her family and Dill were so unfair to him. For instance, she admits that the mysterious man may have a social problem, but the society, which is largely racist and impoverished, does not care for people like Boo. She realises that she was unfair to Boo. She also understands that her father’s advice to have sympathy and understanding of people like Boo was important in her life. From her perspective, it is clear that the white families in American south were not only racist, but also unfair and discriminating. The society seems to be lost in inhuman practices, especially against the poor and the black people to an extent that they cannot find goodness out of them.
An Analysis of Empathy in To Kill a Mockingbird, a Book by Harper Lee
Climbing into someone’s shoes and walking in it can give you the power to genuinely understand a variety of people. Doing this can also help you get along with all kinds of people, opening your mind to new perspectives of life. Considering things from other people’s point of view allows you to understand why people do certain things, taking away any kind of judgement. In the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, Atticus teaches us to look at other people’s perspective of things by climbing in someone else’s shoes and walking in them, allowing us to sincerely understanding their thoughts and actions.
Climbing in someone’s shoes and walking in them will give you so much power and several benefits like befriending many people, understanding their actions, and accepting them for who they are. For instance, when Scout came to Atticus to explain her daily troubles, he replied, “If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view — until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (pg. 39) Atticus realized that it’s not easy for someone so judgemental to understand why people do certain things, so he gives Scout a small piece of advice that will help her in the long run. He knew that the only way to be able to truly understand someone else’s choices was to view it from their perspective. For another example, when Scout dropped Boo Radley off to his house, she realized, “Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.” (pg. 374) Using the advice Atticus gave her, Scout was able to see things from the mockingbird’s point of view and understand why it would’ve been hard for Boo if they had told the truth. She also began to become aware of the things she did indirectly to Boo during the summer, and immediately reflected upon her own actions. For the final example, after Scout met Boo Radley for the first time, Scout said to Atticus as she fell asleep, “Atticus, he was real nice,” and he replied, “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.” (pg. 376) In the end, by listening to Atticus’s advice, Scout was able to make a friend, one who seemed strange at first, but was found to be innocent and pure later on. She accepted Boo for being reclusive and stopped “putting his life’s history on display for the edification of the neighborhood” because she understood how it felt to see that from his own neighbors. Scout learned to value other people’s opinions and rituals through Atticus’s priceless advice: try to climb into someone’s shoes and walk in them.
In the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, Atticus teaches his children a simple trick to understand a person’s opinions and behavior: to climb in their shoes and walk around in them. This can benefit society in many ways, including having everyone get along with each other because you see things their way. Trying to think about how they feel and what they’re going through can be a crucial factor when it comes to strong relationships and can only be achieved by putting yourself in their “shoes.” With everyone understanding each other, the world would be a whole community, living in peace. If you disagree with someone’s judgement, looking from their perspective can allow you to empathize, tolerate, and accept them.
The Courage of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
“Every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally. This one’s mine, I guess.” To Kill A Mockingbird, an award winning book by Harper Lee is about Atticus Finch, a lawyer in Maycomb, Alabama trying to defend Tom Robinson. Tom, who was accused of rape by a white woman named Mayella Ewell in the 20th century is having great difficulty in winning the case. Atticus Finch is showing great courage and confidence when he decides to help Tom Robinson with his case.
Atticus is defending Tom because he values equality and justice. He believes that everyone is equal and therefore just because Tom Robinson is black, does not mean that he should not defend him. Before the trial, Atticus states, “Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason not to try to win.” Atticus is pointing out that simply because ingrained racism will probably lose them the trial, does not mean they can not do the right thing to fight for justice anyway.
Another reason why Atticus defended Tom because he wanted Jem, his son to look up to him and keep his respect for his dad. Atticus states, “Before Jem looks at anyone else, he looks at me. I’ve tried to live so I can look squarely back at him… If I connived at something like this, frankly, I couldn’t meet his eye, and the day I can’t do that I’ll have lost him. If Atticus didn’t defend Tom, Jem would no longer have respect for his father and he wouldn’t be able to look at him in the same way.
Even though Atticus showed courage in helping Tom, people could not take a black person’s word over a white’s. It was extremely hard for the court to take Tom Robinson’s story for the truth. Atticus’ neighbor states, “… don’t see why you touched it in the first place… You’ve got everything to lose from this Atticus. I mean everything.” He is stating that Atticus has no chance in winning the case because Tom is black. Even though his neighbors didn’t support him helping Tom, he knew that it was the right thing to do.
Atticus showed great courage in doing the right thing by defending Tom because he believed everyone should be treated equally and he wanted to keep the respect of his son. Since Atticus values equality and justice, he still had the courage to defend a black man in court even if he knew that it wasn’t going to go their way. In reading the book, the reader sees how people should always be treated equally no matter the outcome and the difficulty for a black man to win a court case in the 20th century..
Similarities and Differences between the Characters of To Kill a Mockingbird and The Help
Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird and Skeeter from The Help both learn about the lives of people not in their own racial group, but they both have different motivations for learning. In the film The Help, Skeeter learns about the black community by interviewing black maids in Jackson for a book she is writing. Skeeter is driven to seek out black maids to interview for the purpose of hearing information about different perspectives, and to publish their experiences for the world to read. Skeeter gave black maids a chance to share their experiences because the households the maids work for take them for granted, and do not consider their feelings and perspectives. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout learns about the lives of black people in her hometown of Maycomb by interacting with them at their church. After learning that her family’s black cook Calpurnia taught her son to read, Scout says, “That Calpurnia led a modest double life never dawned on me. The idea that she had a separate existence outside our household was a novel one, to say nothing of her having command of two languages” (Lee 167). Scout is encouraged to come to the black church with her brother by Calpurnia, but she does not go with any intent other than to spend time with Calpurnia. The questions she that asks Calpurnia about the lives of people in the black community are asked because of her naturally childish curiosity, not out of a sense of injustice like Skeeter does. Scout and Skeeter are both initially unaware of the prejudices that black people in their towns suffer because of how society treats them, until they take time to listen to the perspective of someone who is not white. While Skeeter has more influence on how blacks are viewed in Jackson by publishing their stories, Scout educating herself on the perspective of another group sets her apart from the ignorant people of Maycomb.
Aunt Alexandra from To Kill a Mockingbird and Hilly from The Help are both prejudiced, but while Hilly keeps her prejudices until the end, Aunt Alexandria eventually lets her prejudices go. When Aunt Alexandra learns that Tom Robinson has been shot dead, she says to Miss Maudie, referring to Atticus and the trial, “I can’t say I approve of everything he does, Maudie, but he’s my brother, and I just want to know when this will ever end. It tears him to pieces” (Lee 316). Aunt Alexandra acts like the other members of the Finch family in the beginning, as she does not support Atticus defending Tom Robinson, claiming that he has brought shame upon the Finches. While she initially comes across as an unsupportive, cold, and racist woman, her exterior breaks the moment when she learns that the man her brother failed to defend is now dead, and her hidden inner loyalty towards Atticus shows. Hilly, on the other hand, is presented as aggressively racist throughout the film, from beginning to end. An example of Hilly still being prejudiced at the end is when she storms up to Skeeter, threatening to tell her mother that she wrote The Help. Hilly is furious that a white woman like Skeeter would try to sympathize with the black community in Jackson, as she believes that black people are beneath white people. She shows her prejudices by never showing any compassion towards black people in Jackson, and she goes out of her way to make life harder for her own maids whenever possible. Ironically, Hilly doesn’t mind running charity benefits for people in Africa, but cannot even try to sympathize with the black people living in her own town. Hilly never shows any change of heart, unlike Aunt Alexandria, who eventually sees the toll the trial is taking on her brother and sympathizes with him and his cause.
Both Constantine and Calpurnia are similar because they act as mother figures towards the children they help raise. An example of Calpurnia acting as a mother towards Scout is when Jem shouts that Scout should start “being a girl and acting right”, Calpurnia comforts a crying Scout by saying “I just can’t help it if Mister Jem’s growin’ up. He’s gonna want to be off to himself a lot now, doin’ whatever boys do, so you just come right on in the kitchen when you feel lonesome. We’ll find lots of things to do in here” (Lee 154). Since Scout’s mother is dead, Calpurnia acts as the motherly figure in Scout’s life, even if she already has a family of her own. Scout is the only female in a male-dominated household, and she also happens to be the youngest. Calpurnia recognizes this, and she makes sure that she is always available to Scout whenever Atticus and Jem are not. In The Help, Constantine acts as a mother towards Skeeter, even though Skeeter’s mother is alive and well. In the film, Skeeter has a childhood flashback to when Constantine comforted her when she was not asked to a dance, and how Constantine provided her with words of encouragement. Even though Constantine is just a maid, she still feels responsibility towards Skeeter as a mother would. When she sees Skeeter in need, her motherly instincts immediately kick in, and she goes to Skeeter’s side, not intending to leave until she is sure Skeeter is comforted. Both Calpurnia and Constantine are similar because while the children they watch over are not their own, they know that they cannot bear to leave a child in distress.
Both Tom Robinson from To Kill a Mockingbird and Aibileen from The Help are similar because they are both blamed for things they did not do because of their race. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Robinson is falsely accused and convicted of raping a white woman. When Jem complains to Atticus that it was not fair that Tom was found guilty by the jury, Atticus replies “There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads- they couldn’t be fair if they tried. 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 295). Atticus is an experienced lawyer, and the evidence he presents to the court makes it clear that Tom Robinson did not rape Mayella Ewell, as he would be physically unable to. Because of social codes in 1930s Alabama, however, the white jury cannot be convinced that a black man can be innocent, and Tom Robinson is given a death sentence. In The Help, Hilly forces Elizabeth to fire Aibileen by falsely claiming that Aibileen stole some silverware. Hilly knows that no evidence would be needed to have a black person arrested for theft, especially when the alleged victim is white. Even though Aibileen evades being reported to the police by threatening to reveal Hilly as the subject of “the terrible awful”, she is still fired for something she did not do. Because of Hilly’s desire to take revenge on Aibileen contributing to The Help, Aibileen has to painfully leave behind Mae Mobley, the child she raised, to her neglectful mother. Both Aibileen and Tom suffer oppression from the racist society they live in, and because of the paradigm in their communities , neither of them get a chance to clear their rightful names.
To Kill a Mockingbird: the Character Analysis of Harper Lee’s Novel
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.
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.