To Kill a Mockingbird Essay on Complex Themes

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To Kill A Mockingbird

'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee is a novel which deals with many complex themes such as racism, intolerance, childhood, growing up and bravery. One of the main characters is Jem and he changes throughout the novel as he comes to terms with adult society, and the prejudice within it.

The story takes place during the Depression in Maycomb, Alabama. It focuses on Jem, Scout and their father Atticus. Atticus is a lawyer who must defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman named Mayella Ewell. In court, Atticus establishes that Mayella and her father Bob Ewell are lying. Even though Tom is innocent, the jury convicts him because he is black. Jem's faith in justice is badly damaged. Humiliated by the trial, Bob Ewell wants revenge. He attacks Jem and Scout as they walk home on a dark night from the school Halloween pageant. Jem's arm is broken in the struggle but, amongst the confusion, Boo (a recluse who lives across the street) comes to the children's rescue. Maycomb's sheriff arrives to discover that Bob Ewell has been killed in the fight.

The main themes in the novel, which demonstrate how Jem changes, are racism and intolerance. This is shown through the court case, and is displayed when Aunt Alexandra is intolerant of the Cunningham's because of their social class differences. Intolerance is also shown by Mrs Dubose. Jem vandalises her garden because he is frustrated by her racist comments against his father. The Tom Robinson case affects Jem just as he is hitting puberty and it changes his outlook on people, forcing him to become an adult. Atticus teaches Jem by example not to discriminate but to treat people equally. When the verdict comes back on Tom Robinson, Jem is sure the jury will see that Tom is innocent and do the right thing, but when they find him guilty, Jem is distraught. Scout observes:

“I peeked at Jem: his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, his shoulders jerked as if each...
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