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Effects of Intolerance in Society

Oct 08, 1999 932 Words
In society, many people tend to reject those who are different. In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee presents a number of situations that reveal the effects of intolerance on other people's lives. The characters in the novel who were treated with a lack of intolerance were Boo Radley, Atticus Finch and Tom Robinson. By observing the effects of intolerance on people's lives, the children gain sympathy, respect and understanding for its victims. <br>

<br>The children gain sympathy for Boo Radley when they observe how others reject him. Ever since his teenage years, Boo had been a prisoner in his own home because his father kept him locked up as a form of punishment. As a result of his isolationism, Boo gained the reputation of Maycomb's mysterious man. Town folk have created rumours about Boo for a source of gossip. Miss Stephanie, known as the "neighbourhood scold", told the children that "Boo drove the scissors into his parent's leg, pulled them out, wiped them on his pants, and resumed his activities" (Lee 11). Jem Finch was another culprit who succeeded in spreading rumours about Boo Radley. The young and mischievous Jem told Dill that "[Boo] dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch" (13). It appeared that the townspeople were blinded by their own stupidity by harassing the helpless Boo Radley. Boo was never given a chance to prove his humanity to the town. Although they assisted in tormenting Boo at first, the children ended up feeling sympathetic toward him. "I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley stayed shut up in his house all this time... it's because he wants to stay inside" (227). In conclusion, we could recognize Boo as the silent hero of Maycomb who was driven away from the cruelty of society. <br>

<br>The children gain respect for Atticus when they see how he is treated with intolerance late one night. Atticus had always been one of Maycomb's most respected men before the Tom Robinson's trial. Atticus was at the county jail to protect Tom Robinson when he was joined by angry townspeople. These townspeople wanted to kill Robinson but Atticus stood his ground by telling them "you can turn around and go home" (151). These townspeople let their hatred for Tom interfere with their wise judgement. Atticus, being the intelligent man he was, treated them with respect and never once lost control of himself. Old Atticus proved to his children that he was a brave man to stand up to over ten angry men ever though they showed him total lack of respect and tolerance. Jem reassured himself that his father would be fine by saying "he's all right, let's go home" (150). The children learned from Atticus' decision making and his strength to defy all odds to stick by what you believe in. Atticus was a man of strong morals and expressed as a pure and good-hearted citizen of Maycomb County. <br>

<br>The children gain understanding for Tom Robinson as they witness how he was treated with intolerance. In the county of Maycomb, black and white people are separated by a wall of cruel prejudice. The black people were always accused of crimes, treated unfairly and looked upon as lower class people. racial slurs were a part of a normal white man's vocabulary. Bob Ewell, in particular, told Atticus "I seen that black nigger yonder" (173). In the novel, the character Tom Robinson was accused of raping a young lady named Mayella Ewell. He was brought to court and trialed. Tom pleaded his innocence by saying "Mr. Finch, if you was a nigger like me, you'd be scared too" (193). Although Atticus was clever during the trial, it concluded that he wasn't clever enough to prove Tom's innocence to a white jury. Tom was convicted of raping Mayella solely on the fact that he was a black man. The whole black community was affected by this trial because they saw themselves as a family that had to stick up for eachother. As a result of this trial, Tom was murdered for trying to escape at a prison. His life was ruined because of racism. The children have come to realize that the world is not always a pretty place. They have come to understand how black people aren't tolerated and they realize that sometimes nothing can be done but you should never give up hope. It is easy to associate the mockingbird symbol to Tom Robinson, a harmless man who becomes a victim of racial prejudice. He was guilty of nothing but being in the wrong place at the wrong time. <br>

<br>By viewing the effects of intolerance on people's lives, the children gain sympathy, respect and understand for its victims. Boo Radley was a misunderstood man that had been harassed throughout his entire life. The children observed how he alienated himself from society and they felt sympathetic toward him. Atticus was a strong, dedicated person who tried to enforce justice in the courtroom for human rights. His diversified character was an asset to the success of the story. Reality of the 1930's was evident with the story behind Tom Robinson. He was a victim of racial discrimination which eventually led to his death. The children gained understanding from Robinson and realized that nothing else could have been done for him. In conclusion, intolerance destroyed the lives of people yet it taught a valuable lesson to others involved.

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