To Kill a Mockingbird and the Politics of Law

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Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is a multi-layered narrative, which not only makes social commentary about the law and politics, but also deals with effects of social prejudices. The story itself centers on Scout and her brother Jem and the life lessons they learn from their father as he takes on a racially charged criminal case. These lessons move them from innocent children to socially aware young adults. The climatic scene of the book takes place in a courtroom, and it calls upon the reader's feelings about the law and politics to be integrated into the story. For some, the law and politics are viewed as one, and for others they are viewed separately. Very often the law can seem more concrete then the other. One reason for this is the use of symbols in association with the law. To Kill a Mockingbird is filled with symbols that have a tangible meaning to the young children and most especially to Atticus. Some of the most poignant symbols are seen through the eyes of young Scout as sits in the balcony during the trial. She has a bird's-eye view of the entire courtroom. She points out that " the jury sat to the left under long windows"(182), and that the men in the courtroom all wore "businesses suit[s]" (177). She also views evidences of what she perceived to be truth in association with the law, in the symbolic hand on the bible. Scout sees Mayella raise "her hand and sw[ear] that the evidence she gave would be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help her God" (190). Finally before the verdict was given, she sees "Judge Taylor bang his gavel" (185). Because of these tangible symbols, the law is often seen as immovable and concrete, however it is merely a subunit of politics, and the guilty verdict in the story proves this. Therefore, court scenes in the story, are used as both a means of both law and politics. Law because the town is seemingly adhering to the law of the books, that is that all men are created equal, a man is...
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