Prejudice-to Kill a Mockingbird and Martin Luther King

Topics: Black people, African American, White people Pages: 14 (5887 words) Published: October 7, 2011

Prejudice, the chain of hatred and ignorance, has haunted our history at every step. In the twenty-first century prejudice and its destruction can be viewed in many forms of modern literature. Two of the most famous and rejoiced literatures that examine the theme of prejudice are Harper Lee’s realist fiction novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and Martin Luther King’s heart warming speech ‘I Have a Dream’. Both texts explore the theme of prejudice of white Americans on the Blacks in the racially tense times of the early twentieth century. Unlike Harper Lee, Martin Luther King goes a step further to persuade the audience that there is prejudice present and we should be motivated to stop this evil from blossoming in our world. Furthermore, in his speech King also proposes a non-conformist yet non-aggressive approach to the hateful and unjust prejudice of the white society. Harper Lee portrays prejudice against race, gender, class and disability through her sequence of plot and various literary techniques such as symbolism, irony, foreshadowing, imagery, tone etc. to interweave a timeless story of good versus evil. On the other hand Martin Luther King also uses various literary techniques such as symbolism, imagery, repetition, tone, emotive language, etc. to display the racial prejudice illustrated in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Both Harper Lee and Luther King have written these emotional and heart touching stories to display the sin and destruction of prejudice to the world. Written during the Civil Rights Movement, Harper Lee uses the writing style of Realist fiction to reveal the various Prejudices shown in the novel. Lee outlines the characters and plot of her story as fictional but the events of the story quite parallel to real life events of South America in the 1930s. Authentic events such as the Great Depression, racial segregation of the white and blacks, and the setting of the novel in Maycomb, Alabama are present in the novel to categorise it as a realist fiction and to portray the prejudice against race, social status, gender and religion. Some events in the novel seem to be influenced by the real historical events of the world. For example, the trial of Tom Robinson seems to compliment the factual Scottsboro trial of 1930s, where nine black male teenagers were wrongly accused of raping two white girls. Also the segregation of the white and blacks, in the novel, is much the same as the racial segregation of the 1930s. The setting of the novel in the Southern state of Alabama, which is blistering with racial injustice, also contributes to the realist element of the novel. In the beautifully composed novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ racial prejudice is perceived as the main type of prejudice. Throughout the novel the white citizens of Maycomb County display unjust hatred towards their fellow black neighbours. The racial prejudice radiated out of the ‘superior’ white people is clearly seen through the sequence of plot in the novel. The famous trial of Tom Robinson brought out the true colours of the buried hatred and racial prejudice of the white society. Through foreshadowing we already acknowledge the fact that Tom Robinson’s trial was a lost case and he ‘was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed’[1]. This use of strong imagery erases all hope of racial equality and portrays crystal clear that in the ‘secret court of men’s hearts’[2] this was not a trial of two equal individuals yet a prejudiced trial of a ‘white man’s word against a black man’s’[3]. The Maycomb people, whose conscious were bathed in prejudice, already knew that their courts which were upheld by the ‘rigid and time-honoured code’[4] of their society would forever see that ‘the white man always wins’[5]. The plot of the novel further allows us to see how the racially prejudiced white society respected the ‘darky’ Tom’s death by evaluating that ‘Tom’s death was typical; typical of a nigger to cut and run. Typical of...
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