Slavery in To Kill a Mockingbird Novel Explicatory Essay

September 29, 2020 by Essay Writer


To Kill a Mockingbird book was published in 1960 and is based on a true story and explains the events that took place in the writer’s hometown in the late 1930s. It is a classic book that captivates the reader with the unique flow of the story bringing out the author’s emotions. The book became an instant hit due to its perfect combination of humor and remorse in the narration and received multiple positive reviews.

The narrator of the story is a young girl named Scout Finch, who lives with her father, Atticus Finch, in Maycomb, Alabama. He is a lawyer by profession. She has only one brother called Jem. Throughout the story, Scout portrays her father as a hero and a role model in maintaining integrity in the legal profession (Johnson 6).

The Theme of Slavery in To Kill a Mockingbird

The book brings out specific themes, such as roles of gender, education, racism, courage, and destruction. The primary idea in the book is the issue of black slavery and the attempt to abolish it. Slavery is more depicted through racial prejudice. The main characters in the novel are said to live in the southern area of the United States of America (Roden 45).

The South Americans practiced racism as opposed to the inhabitants in the north. The southern territory supported the use of slaves to provide free labor in their large cotton plantations as opposed to the northern state who had declared the practice illegal.

However, the southerners were faced with a dilemma of maintaining their Christian morals on the one hand and retaining the slaves on the other (Tolstoy 43). The ‘negroes,’ as the Southerners referred them, were valuable during this period of the Great Depression.

To balance their Christianity beliefs and their material needs, they declared the Negroes as being in-humans who were inferior to society. This justified their role as slaves and the reason why they could not be treated equally according to Christianity (McCarty 23).

Was Tom Robinson a Slave?

The author introduces a character Tom Robinson who represents the slaves in the South (Lee and Bloom 12). Tom is accused of rape, and Atticus acts as his lawyer.

He worked as a slave in Mr. Link Deas’s farm. He had been accused of raping a white lady, Mayella, in the pretense of helping her. Racial discrimination was evident during the cross-examination when Tom told the court that he felt pity for the white lady who seemed lonely. The statement is said to shock the audience as it was not usual for a black Negro to feel any remorse towards a white person.

The narrator can bring out the hardships the slaves go through during the trial of Tom (Bloom 63). They are depicted as liars and criminals with no chance of being justifiably heard. Atticus defends Tom with all his might by reminding the jury that there was no difference between the black and white men in the court of law and that they should be fair in their verdict.

Tom is, however, found guilty despite his strong defense. Atticus does not display any shock at the outcome, and he states that he expected the jury not to rule in favor of Tom as he was a black Negro. Tom is finally shot dead by prison guards in his attempt to escape from prison.

Plot Analysis

The introduction of Tom by the author is a plot device to represent the plight of the slaves in the state. Tom is black and in a crippled state. He has been convicted before for engaging himself in a fight and being unable to pay up a fine. This is an indication that the slaves in To Kill a Mockingbird were poor. He had severely injured his arm on the farm while working on the cotton gin machine.

It should be noted that this machine was used primarily by slaves in cotton fields. Tom’s character depicts the hardships that the slaves underwent. The injured arm plays a vital role in acting as an emblem to portray negligence over the slaves by the whites.

The decision by the jury, despite the strong defense, is also an indication that the slaves had no chance against the whites. Lastly, Tom’s death portrays how the slaves were killed for no apparent reason. This is due to the fact that they were not considered humans at all by the whites.

However, the author brings out another side of the black people as opposed to the whites. They are generous and do not seem to discriminate. One incidence is the fact that Tom befriends the lonely white woman and even offers to help her on several occasions.

The other incidence is the fact that the black people in the courtroom stand up to pave the way for Atticus as a sign of respect for his effort to set Tom free. The whites, on the other hand, seem to hold a grudge towards Atticus for representing a black man in court and trying to uphold justice in the court.


The author brings out slavery in To Kill a Mockingbird in a brilliant manner though her excellent narration style. She tells the story as an innocent child observer in an adult based situation hence embedding the scene in the reader’s mind. Not only does the author portrays her father as a hero but also her hatred towards the practice of slavery. Her only wish is for justice to be served equally to both the blacks and the whites.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. Harper Lee’s To Kill a mockingbird. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2007. Print.

Johnson, Claudia. Understanding To Kill a mockingbird: a student casebook to issues, sources, and historic documents. United States: The Greenwood Press, 1994. Print.

Lee, Harper and Bloom, Harold. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2010. Print.

McCarty, Lisa. To kill a Mockingbird. USA: Saddleback Educational Publishing, 2006. Print.

Roden, Donald. Harper Lee’s To Kill a mockingbird. London: Barnes & Nobles, 1997. Print.

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