Racism in To Kill a Mockingbird
“To Kill A Mockingbird” is a book that takes many turns which makes it not easy to put down. It is set in Maycomb, Alabama around the time where slavery still existed. The story is focused around a trial where Atticus Finch has chosen to defend a black man named Tom Robinson.
When read at the present time it is not felt as a big deal but at the time it was more than a big deal. It was something no one else remotely thought of doing. Tom Robinson is a man being accused of raping a women. In Maycomb, Alabama at the time, racism was a problem. The book goes through the struggles that Atticus has when defending Tom Robinson. This trial brings out the best and the ultimate worst of different people. For Jem and Scout, their perspectives of the world change. “To Kill A Mockingbird” exemplifies contrasting personalities and symbolism to make a moral novel that can be learned from.
Harper Lee was born in Alabama on April 28, 1926. Her father, Amasa Coleman, was a lawyer just like Atticus Finch in the book. Many of the people that were part of Harper Lee’s life were also conveyed in the book. Another example is her older brother. In the book Scout has an older brother who is adventurous just like her Harper’s brother was. Harper Lee grew up in Alabama and wrote the book around 1960. At this time African Americans were being held from their natural rights that they had. The Emancipation Proclamation was only issued in 1963. As Harper Lee grew up in Alabama at this time, she saw much discrimination against African Americans which led to inspiration for the book. Harper Lee attended college to become a lawyer like her father but dropped out to pursue her writing career. Truman Capote was a writer who was part of Harper Lee’s life. His summer visits inspired the character Dill in the story. Many of the characters and conflicts of the story reflect on what Harper Lee saw throughout her life.
Harper Lee uses characters that have personalities that can be very different. Much of the county is split on racism. Many of the people there feel that the black people are less equal. Even with this attitude present there are still some who treat the black people right. One of them is Atticus Finch. Atticus did not hesitate when he was asked to defend Tom. This shows his courage to stand up for what is right. Atticus is surrounded by his family with includes Jem and Scout. Scout is a young girl who can turn up a but naughty at times like when she is rude to Walter Cunningham. Then there is Jem who is her older brother. Jem is more mature and can be seen trying to impress Atticus rather than disappointing him. Jem explains something very important to Scout before he goes to get his pants back from the Radley house. He tells her that he has never been beaten by Atticus before and would like to keep it that way. This shows the type of respect Jem has for Atticus and how good of a boy he is. Atticus who is their father is very much like a role model for them. Through all his struggles in the book he stays true to his word and shows them show to live right. For example he says courage is, “when you know you’re licked before you begin but you see it through no matter what.” Quotes like these make Atticus a very strong figure in the book. In the novel, when Atticus was confronted by Bob Ewell, he had a choice. Bob Ewell was so mad that Atticus was defending the black man that “raped” his daughter, that he spit on his face. Atticus stood there and didn’t do anything back. He took the anger Bob gave and retuned it with peace. This shows the character and moral values Atticus has. Another piece of wisdom Atticus says is when he explains how it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird because they don’t do anything wrong but make music for others to enjoy. This leads to the large amount of symbolism in the book.
The mockingbird makes a big impact on the book. It symbolizes innocence and misunderstanding. Boo Radley and Tom Robinson are mockingbirds in their own way. Both of them do not do anything harmful but are in their own way “killed”. Boo Radley is a mysterious man who is described as a “malevolent phantom”. He is know for killing his father with scissors. Many people will not go near his house. He is never seen and no one knows much about him. The kids come to see that this is not entirely true. Boo leaves gifts for the kids in a tree and comforts Scout during the big neighborhood fire. It shows that he isn’t really a mean guy but one who is misunderstood. Likewise Tom Robinson is accused for a crime that he had nothing to do with. Tom was only doing the right thing by trying to help the women but instead gets framed for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. This leads to the trial and him eventually dying.
Another reason this novel is amazing is because of the real life moral values it has. The book tackles the affects of racism from an outside perspective. Bob Ewell accuses Tom of the crime because he is considered less of a human than the other people. At that time period many white people were allowed to do whatever they felt like because they were the upper class. Tom could not do anything about the false accusations. This is when Atticus comes in and helps Tom who can’t help himself. Atticus who is white, defending a black man. To most of the county that is something they were unfamiliar with. This is what makes Atticus a respected man by a part of the county and by all of the black community. He appears to be the hero of the book who helps the innocent.
The maturity of Jem and Scout is a another theme that is very evident by the end of the book. In the beginning Jem and Scout are blinded by a world where everyone is nice to each other. They don’t know about the racism and the nasty side of there county. To them the worst thing they encounter is Boo Radley. The first time they face reality is when they enter the court trial of Tom Robinson. They see all the black people segregated on the top of the court house. All the white men are curing out Tom in the front. Then they say their father who was also taking insults for his choice to do what’s right. In the court house they get exposed to all the evidence of the crime. They realize that is wasn’t Tom who did it. This is when the crazy plot starts to unfold. Everything takes unexpected turns but doesn’t end as the reader would like to. As they hear the final verdict come out they hear that he is guilty. This heart break solidifies all the evil in the world.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” is an amazing book because it teaches lessons about racism that can be applied today while having an interesting plot that won’t let the reader put the book down. The reader is exposed to the toxic environment that is in Maycomb, Alabama. Harper Lee uses experiences in her own life to fully portray the environment. Through the eyes of Scout Finch the struggles of living in a place where racism prevails is seen. The author uses a character, Atticus Finch, to be the hero in Maycomb and do what no one else would. To exemplify the true meaning of courage and helps others even when he knows he might get hurt.
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