The Depiction Of Racism In Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird
Through viewing Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird with a Marxist lens, the reader audience can understand how race and classism create Maycomb and uphold its structure. Lee uses dialogue, connotation, descriptive language, symbolism, contrast, narrative voice and metaphor to present these ideas and advocate for reformation of Maycomb, with its caste system and racism to be broken.
By viewing the text with a Marxist lens, the racism is clear and is presented as the natural way of Maycomb. The racial bias the White American community holds against the African American community becomes evident during Tom Robinson’s trial. While both Mayella and Tom Robinson have low social standings, jury favors Mayella over Tom Robinson because he is African American. The evidence of his innocence would have been enough to acquit him if he were a White American, but because of his race he was harshly punished. This is explained through Reverend Skyes’ dialogue “I ain’t ever seen any jury decide in favor of a colored man over a white man”.
Moreover, the statement “Nigger always comes out in ‘em” is negatively connotative and insinuates what the general consensus is in Maycomb. The mentality that African Americans are inherently violent and dangerous is a stereotype and fear that exists among White Americans and is another reason why Mayella is favored over Tom Robinson. Atticus addresses this concern when he gives his final speech to the jury. His use of descriptive language communicates that it is an “evil assumption” to believe that all African Americans are inherently deceptive and destructive. This encourages the reader to empathize with the African Americans and positions them to understand the struggles that take place. Lee uses the characters of Judge Taylor and Atticus to demonstrate that those with power and respect in society need to be the first to instigate social change. Judge Taylor understood that the system was in dire need of reformation and used his office of power for the better by strategically appointing Atticus as Tom Robinson’s lawyer.
Though the outcome is not ideal, Lee uses symbolism to address that Tom Robinson’s case was “making a baby-step”, as the jury evaluated Tom’s case longer than they would normally do. Maycomb is upset that Atticus “defended niggers” as he would have defended a White American client, because it means African Americans are being treated on the same level as White Americans. The White American inhabitants work hard to maintain the order and status they have, as well as their racial superiority. Therefore, this shows the reader that racism exists in the town of Maycomb and helps maintain the system.
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