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Theme Analysis

By riley1s Jun 08, 2013 2840 Words
Themes| Racism|
The Theme in the Book| Racism is one of the major themes in To Kill a Mockingbird. The main example of racism was the charge brought by Bob Ewell against Tom Robinson and the way in which the anti black feeling in Maycomb caused hostility towards Atticus and his family because of his defence of Tom. It is also evident in Aunt Alexandra's disapproval of Calpurnia and in the hypocritical attitudes of Miss Gates and the ladies of the Missionary Circle. The "rigid and time honoured code" of society was that, while, white people could employ and even exploit African-Americans, there could be no personal relationship between African-Americans and whites and no recognition that African-Americans had the same reactions and feelings as white people. There was a very racist assumption "that all Blacks lie, that all Blacks are basically immoral beings". This assumption with many other prejudice example gave Blacks no chance especially for Tom Robinson in his trial. The Reverend Sykes said, "I ain't ever seen any jury decide in favour of a coloured man over a white man". Atticus did not understand "why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up" and he calls this emotional attitude "Maycomb's usual disease". Mr Dolphus Raymond talks about "the hell white people give coloured folks, without even stopping to think that they're people too." Atticus fears that "one of these days we're going to pay the bill for it".| Quote 1| "I ain't ever seen any jury decide in favour of a coloured man over a white man”| Quote 2| “There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads- they couldn’t be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s word, the white always wins. They’re ugly, but these are the facts of life” (252)| Quote 3| “The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it - whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash” (240-241)| Quote 4| “In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins.” (240)| Quote 5| "Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed” (266)|

Themes| Justice and Injustice|
The Theme in the Book| Scouts child-like perspective to make points about the injustices caused by misunderstanding and naivety. This is especially prominent when Scout has a new teacher and is shamed for trying to explain the balance of Maycomb’s society to her. Harper Lee also shows the way in which the majority of injustices can have repercussions when Scout attacks Walter Cunningham, accusing him of making her ‘start off on the wrong foot’. Harper Lee also makes reference to the injustices caused by the ‘classes’ within Maycomb. This is shown particularly well after the trial when Scout - upon hearing the way in which a member of the Cunningham family fought for Tom Robinson - decides that she will invite Walter to her house. This idea is quickly crushed by Aunt Alexandra and causes Scout to see the hypocrisy of the social ladder as she sees that the group that someone is put in doesn’t define them. Also Atticus Finch is the symbol of justice. He is literally an anti-racist. He's a lawyer who defends Tom Robinson, a black man from a crime in a time of great racism. A huge hero. Racism is injustice. Bob Ewell is the main antagonist. He accuses Robinson of something that he knows Robinson did not do; therefore he is just lying. He later tries to kill Atticus' kids, Jem and Scout, but does not succeed in doing so, even though Jem gets a broken arm.| Quote 1| “The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it - whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash” (240-241)| Quote 2| “In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins.” (240)| Quote 3| “The witnesses for the state, with the exception of the sheriff of Maycomb Country, have presented themselves to you gentlemen, to this court, in the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted, confidence that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption - the evil assumption – that all Negores lie, that all Negores are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women.” (225) | Quote 4| “How could they do it? How could they? I don’t know , but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it done it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it – seems only children weep” (235)|

Themes| Good and Evil|
The Theme in the Book| To Kill a Mockingbird is an exploration of human morality, and presents a constant conversation regarding the inherent goodness or evilness of people. Atticus, father of Scout and Jem, also plays the role of teacher, for his children and his town. Atticus believes that people usually contain aspects of both good and evil, but that good will usually prevail. Atticus teaches this to his children, but also to the town, as he works to defend Tom Robinson, an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman. Despite the challenge of overcoming the town's deeply ingrained racism and forcing people to change their social perspectives, Atticus struggles on, because he believes that one day, goodness will prevail over the evils of racism and racial equality will exist. Throughout the book, Scout and Jem make transition from innocence to maturity. At the beginning of the novel, they approach life innocently believing in the goodness of all people, thinking everyone understands and adheres to the same values they and their father do. During Tom Robinson's trial, the children are sorely disappointed when the jury, made up of their fellow townspeople, convicts the obviously innocent Tom Robinson simply because he is a black man and his accuser is white. The realization that there is true evil within their society shakes Jem to the core. He held a strong belief in the goodness of all people, but after the trial must reevaluate his understanding of human nature. At the end of the novel, both children are faced with true evil, as Bob Ewell tries to kill them. True goodness, embodied in Boo Radley, saves them. In this final conflict between these opposing forces, goodness prevails.| Quote 1| “Its never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is" (30)| Quote 2| "He slowly squeezed the breath out of me. I could not move. Suddenly he was jerked backwards and flung in the ground, almost carrying me with him, I though Jem's up," (151)| Quote 3| "Your father's no better than the niggers and trash he works for!" (102)| Quote 4| “Despite these bad qualities, she also has a good quality which deserves respect: her heroism. Mrs. Dubose is actually a morphine addict who eventually decides that before she dies, she no longer beholds to her addiction” (111)|

Themes| Social Inequalities |
The Theme in the Book| Along with struggling with concepts of good and evil, Scout and Jem spend a great deal of time trying to understand what defines and creates social strata. Scout tends to believe that "folks are just folks", while Jem is convinced that social standing is related to how long people's relatives and ancestors have been able to write. Scout elucidates the town's social strata quite clearly on her first day at school when Walter Cunningham does not have lunch or lunch money. Her classmates ask her to explain to the teacher why Walter won't take a loaned quarter to buy lunch, and she lectures the teacher on the Cunningham's financial situation and how they trade goods for services. Scout and the other children have a very clear understanding of the social inequalities in their town, but see these inequalities as natural and permanent. The Finch family falls rather high up in the social hierarchy, while the Ewell family falls at the bottom. However, this hierarchy only includes white people. Maycomb's black population fall beneath all white families in Maycomb, including the Ewells, whom Atticus labels as "trash".Scout understands this social structure, but doesn't understand why it is so. She believes that everyone should be treated the same, no matter what family they are from. For instance, when she wants to spend more time with Walter Cunningham, Aunt Alexandra objects saying no Finch girl should ever consort with a Cunningham. Scout is frustrated by this, as she wants to be able to choose her own friends based on her definition of what makes a good person: morality.| Quote 1| “But I want to play with Walter, Aunty, why can’t I?” She took off her glasses and stared at me. “I’ll tell you why,” she said, “Because- he – is – trash, that’s why you can’t play with him” (257)| Quote 2| "There's some folks who don't eat like us," she whispered fiercely, "but you ain't called on to contradict 'em at the table when they don't. That boy's yo' comp'ny and if he wants to eat up the table cloth you let him, you hear?” "He ain't company, Cal, he's just a Cunningham-" ( )| Quote 3| “Lula stopped, but she said, "You ain't got no business bringin' white chillun here – they got their church, we got our'n. It is our church, ain't it, Miss Cal?" “Calpurnia said, "It's the same God, ain't it?"| Quote 4| "Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed” (266)|

Themes| Mockingbird|
The Theme in the Book| When Scout and Jem receive airguns for Christmas, Atticus tells them that although he would prefer that they practice their shooting with tin cans, if they must shoot at living things, they must never shoot at mockingbirds. Atticus explains that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. Clearly, this is the title scene, but the theme continues throughout the book. Miss Maudie explains why Atticus is correct - mockingbirds never do anyone any harm, and are not pests in any way. All they do is sing beautifully and live peacefully. Therefore, it is a sin to kill them. The mockingbird comes to represent true goodness and purity. Tom Robinson is one example of a human "mockingbird". He stands accused of raping and beating Mayella Ewell, but is innocent of the charges. The town commits the ultimate sin by finding him guilty and sentencing him to death. In effect, they have killed a mockingbird. Boo Radley is another example of a human "mockingbird". He has spent his entire life as a prisoner of his own home because his father was overzealous in punishing him for a childhood mistake. Boo Radley observes the world around him, causing no harm to anyone, and then saves Jem and Scout's lives when Bob Ewell attacks. The sheriff determines that Ewell's death will be ruled an accident to avoid forcing Boo to go to trial, even though Boo killed him to protect the children. Atticus agrees, and wants to make sure Scout understands why this little white lie must be told. She replies saying of course she understands, putting Boo on trial and in the public sphere would be like killing a mockingbird. The mockingbird represents true goodness and innocence that should always be protected.| Quote 1| "I'd rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you'll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."| Quote 2| Your father's right," she said. "Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."|

Themes| Bravery/Courage|
The Theme in the Book| Bravery takes many forms in To Kill A Mockingbird. Atticus is brave to defend a black man in the face of criticism and threats of violence. He also is brave in the face of danger, both when he kills the rabid dog with a single shot and when facing the mob of men outside the jailhouse. Atticus urges Scout to be brave and prevent herself from fighting those who criticize her or her family. To Atticus, withholding violence is one of the highest forms of bravery. The children believe themselves to be brave when approaching the Radley house early in the book, but learn later on that this was false bravery, and in fact, silly. Atticus holds up Mrs. Dubose as the ultimate definition of bravery, as she finds against her morphine addiction in order to be free from it before she dies, even when she knows she will die in the process. Atticus, who also fights against a power greater than himself, tells his children they should have great respect for Mrs. Dubose. Finally, Bob Ewell represents the greatest cowardice, as he both lies in the courtroom to protect himself and resorts to attacking children in the darkness in order to make himself feel more of a man.| Quote 1| I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew." (Chapter 11)| Quote 2| “Mr. Finch, taking the one man who’s done you and this town a great service an‘ draggin’ him with his shy ways into the limelight—to me, that’s a sin. It’s a sin and I’m not about to have it on my head. If it was any other man, it’d be different. But not this man, Mr. Finch....I may not be much, Mr. Finch, but I’m still sheriff of Maycomb County and Bob Ewell fell on his knife. Good night, sir."| Quote 3| |

Quote 4| |

Themes| Effects of Loneliness|
The Theme in the Book| Harper Lee explores the loneliness people experience through many of the characters in this novel. Boo Radley, Tom Robinson and Mayella Ewell are all outcasts, isolated and rejected. Mr Dolphus Raymond has accepted his rejection and turned it to his advantage. Boo Radley and Tom Robinson are "mockingbird" figures who are needlessly tormented by society. Mayella lacks love and understanding, and her need for these brings about Tom's downfall. Scout comes to see her as the loneliest person in the world. "She was even lonelier than Boo Radley, who had not been out of the house in twenty five years".| Quote 1| “Inside the house lived a malevolent phantom. People said he existed, but Jem and I had never seen him. People said he went out at night when the moon was down, and peeped in windows” (9)| Quote 2| “I beat him up twice but it did no good, he only grew closer to Jem. They spent days together in the tree house plotting and planning, calling me only when they needed a third party. Our tactic treaty with Miss Maudy was that we could play on her lawn, eat her scuppernongs if we didn’t jump on the arbor, so carefully were we to preserve to delicate balance of our relationship, but Jem and Dill drove me closer to her with their behavior” (46)| Quote 3| “Jem and I were trotting in our orbit mild October afternoon when our knot hole stopped us again. Something white was inside this time. Jem let me do the honors: I pulled out two small images carved in soap. One figure was a boy the other wore a crude dress” (67)| Quote 4| |

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