Running When Threatened
In the opening scene of the Academy Award winning film “Fiddler on the Roof,” Tevye, an orthodox Russian Jew, shimmies and bellows about tradition as he lays out the familial roles of every person in the town of Anatevka. Tevye embraces these defined roles, content to adhere to the status quo, until his daughters grow up and feel the pull of modernism. At this point, torn between his family and his customs, Tevye decides to let his children do what they believe is right, not what everybody else does. Tradition and the norm are two powerful forces that have shaped decisions throughout time. These issues are explored further in other works of contemporary culture, such as Harper Lee’s coming-of-age story about a young girl dealing with the trial and repercussions of a black man her father is defending. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee illustrates the importance of maintaining the status quo and keeping traditions until one’s morals are threatened.
In the Alabama county of Maycomb, fitting in is almost instinctive. Each family has a label and each member is expected to conform. Aunt Alexandra describes it as, “Everybody in Maycomb, it seemed, had a Streak: a Drinking Streak, a Gambling Streak, a Mean Streak, a Funny Streak” (Lee 172). Scout finds this absurd, not only because Atticus does, but because she believes that, “...there’s only one kind of folks. Folks” (Lee 304). Still, on Scout’s first day of school, when she is reprimanded by her new teacher, Atticus tells Scout she is an ordinary person, not someone like an uneducated Ewell, and therefore must return to school every day. Later, when defending Atticus in the schoolyard, Scout is instructed not to fight, again in an effort for Scout to fit in among her peers and receive a normal education. Sticking to traditions is a huge part of fitting in in Maycomb County. All people, even those unwilling or hesitant, are subject to the rules and requirements of tradition. Some...
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