January 21, 2013
Belief Without Basis
In the words of Anthony J. D’Angelo, “If you believe that discrimination exists, it will.” The novel To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee, is set in the early thirties in the deep south of Alabama. Various characters are subjected to the old-fashioned ways of discrimination and inequity often found in such a setting. The main protagonist Scout attempts to grasp the concept and learns to live with prejudice in her life. Meanwhile, other characters struggle on a daily basis to find acceptance and, more prominently, justice. This novel contains various situations in which several personalities are persecuted as a result of their race, age and socio-economic standing. Undoubtedly, the unjust and dehumanizing effect of prejudice is one theme in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Firstly, in this novel a person’s age plays a large role in the amount of respect he/she is given. Children in particular are not thought of very highly. For example, Mrs. Dubose hassles Scout and tells her that she will grow up to be trash and most likely work in a low paying job. She goes on to say that there will be “not only a Finch waiting on tables, but one in the courthouse lawing for niggers” (Lee 135). Mr. Avery’s accusation towards Jem and Scout in reference to the layer of snow covering Maycomb County is another example of discrimination against children. Mr. Avery approaches the children and explains that it “hasn’t snowed in Maycomb since Appomattox. It’s bad children like you makes the seasons change” (Lee 87). Lastly, Scout’s teacher, Mrs. Caroline, makes it clear that she is unhappy with her superior knowledge. It upsets her that not all children are as dumb and clueless as she may perceive them
to be. Scout explains how the situation came about “after making me read… she discovered that I was literate and looked at me with more than faint distaste” (Lee 22). Evidently, children are rarely given the chance to prove themselves and the majority are thought to be senseless, troublesome and lacking ambition. Clearly, children are subjected to prejudice and discrimination, of sorts. Socio-economic is yet another type of discrimination shown in To Kill a Mockingbird. Wealth and background influence one’s social standing in Maycomb. Aunt Alexandra explains to Scout that she believes “you can scrub Walter Cunningham until he shines, you can put him in shoes and a new suit, but he’ll never be like Jem” (Lee 300) simply because he is a Cunningham, a boy from a poor family. In addition, the Ewells are a family famed for holding the title of the ‘Poorest White-Folk in Maycomb County.’ Due to this and the fact that it has been this way for generations, they are thought of as dirty, repulsive people who get little respect in the community. Atticus believes that “the Ewells had been the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations” (Lee 40). Even Jem acknowledges the various levels of social status. This is evident when he explains to Scout that “there are four kinds of folks in the world. There’s the ordinary kind like us and the neighbours, there’s the kind like the Cunningham’s out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes” (Lee 302). Unquestionably, all Maycomb residents acknowledge and comprehend the idea of socio-economic standings and clearly these ideas have long been stirring in their heads. If you come from a poor family, you are not fit to converse commonly with the folks from higher classes than yours. If you come from a family with little respect in the community, all members of that family deserve little respect
and have no right to prove themselves different. These are morally incorrect, discriminative views that most of the characters live by. This especially proves that socio-economic discrimination is a prevalent and accepted topic in Maycomb. The most...