Examining Innocence in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
In Harper Lee’s, To Kill a Mockingbird, the theme of prejudice appears often among the characters in the story. Being prejudice is like looking through a pair of glasses that has lens fogging up after coming in from the cold weather outside. When the lens fog up, it is difficult for people to see clearly, similar to the people of Maycomb. They are unable to see the innocence of those they accuse due to their bigotry views. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, portrays the significance of prejudice within the society. Tom Robinson, Boo Radley, and Atticus Finch are all victims of the townspeople’s bigotry.
In the novel, Harper Lee uses the way the characters view Tom Robison and how they treat him to depict the theme of being prejudice. To demonstrate, during the trial, Tom was found guilty of raping Mayella Ewell, despite the evidence being unable to prove this. This shows that the judge and the court have chosen to disregard the lack of proof as Tom is a black man. Harper Lee writes, “In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins.” (Lee 295), which further demonstrates racial prejudice. Since Tom is a black man and is being accused by a white man, the jury is in favour of the plaintiff, revealing how their prejudice views results in blindness of reason and truth. In addition, Tom is treated with prejudice when he states, “You felt sorry for her, you felt sorry for her?” (Lee 264). The emphasis on the words sorry, you and her, demonstrates how society at the time, believed that no matter what, white people are superior to the black people. This also emphasizes that Tom should not be sorry for a white person because he is of a lower status in their eyes, further implying that Tom is inferior and lowly compared to the white community.
In addition to the prejudice shown towards Tom Robinson, prejudice is demonstrated through the people of Maycomb’s judgement towards Boo Radley. Boo is treated as a monster and is feared because he is not “normal”. For example, the children are prejudice towards Boo, stating that, “he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that’s why his hands were bloodstained… There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time” (Lee 16). The kids describe Boo as if he was a monster without really knowing him or seeing him. Boo Radley is judged even by those who are young, showing how society is prejudice towards him. Moreover, Harper Lee also includes the lines, “Boo drove the scissors into his parent’s leg, pulled them out, wiped them on his pants, and resumed his activity” (Lee, 13), presenting the idea that Boo acts differently and abnormally. He is not seen as someone normal, so society fears and ridicules Boo.
Another victim, Atticus Finch, also establishes the them of prejudice. For instance, Bob Ewell spits and threatens Atticus after the trial, provoking him by saying, “Too proud to fight, you nigger-lovin’ bastard?” (Lee 291). This shows how Atticus is receiving hateful and insulting comments for defending Tom Robinson; a black man. Lee informs the viewers how society treats and judges those who are different, of a different race, and those who side with them. Atticus defends a black man from a white man, which in turn leads to society being prejudice towards him. Harper Lee also uses other characters from different parts of the novel to show prejudice amongst the townspeople. This is depicted in the lines, “Your father is no better than the niggers and trash he works for” (Lee 135), when Mrs. Dubose calls Atticus derogatory remarks. Through this line, Lee presents the idea that society is not happy about Atticus’s decision to defend a black man. He illustrates once again, racial prejudice, and inform readers that society, no matter how good a person’s intentions are, would still be prejudice to those they feel do not fit in.
With these information, viewers can gather that prejudice commonly takes place in the novel. Harper Lee’s use of Tom Robinson, Boo Radley and Atticus Finch, along with other characters in the novel, lucidly shows the societal prejudice towards those who the superiors see as inferior and of low status in To Kill a Mockingbird. These people who are prejudice continue to see with the glasses with fog on the lens, making them unable to se clearly. Once these people wipe off the fog, their vision will grow clear. Once these people wipe off prejudice in their hearts and minds, their view on the world and others will become more positive.
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