Prejudice can be described as an opinion of a person based usually on race or religion before all the facts are known. Prejudice is an occurring problem during the twentieth century and is especially emphasized in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. In the novel, Harper Lee shows us the effects of prejudice on the ideas of the citizens in Maycomb County, more specifically social prejudice in some of the main characters: Arthur Radley and Atticus Finch. In the novel, Boo Radley is a victim of prejudice. Boo Radley is not accepted nor does he fit into Maycomb society because he is considered different from the others. He is not normal according to Maycomb civilians and therefore he is punished socially by a community that is very judgmental and biased. Boo does not act like a normal person and his actions are mysterious and abnormal. One day Boo was cutting the newspaper with scissors, and when his father passed "Boo drove the scissors into his parent's leg, pulled them out, wiped them on his pants, and resumed his activities" (12). Boo just sat there after stabbing his father. He did not apologize or feel regret for his actions. This event became a topic for gossip throughout Maycomb giving Boo the malicious reputation he has to live with. Boo Radley isolates himself from the people of Maycomb. He stays inside his home all day and nobody ever sees him. He stays inside his home because he knows that his society will ridicule him and will not allow him to let go of his past errors. The town often speculates what he does inside his home. People believe that Boo "went out at night when the moon was down, and peeped in windows... any stealthy small crimes committed in Maycomb were his work" (9). The town would accuse Boo for any misdemeanor or unexplained abnormality. Children contemplate as well as the adults. When describing Boo Radley, Jem explains to Dill that "Boo was about six and a half feet tall ... there was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time" (14). This is an example of prejudice in the novel because the children fabricate ideas based on what the neighborhood has to say about Boo’s activities. The town portrays Boo Radley as an outcast and rejects him in their society all because he made a mistake and is a little bit diversified. Another example of prejudice within the novel is Atticus Finch, a major role in the book. After being appointed to defend Tom Robinson, a black man, against a white woman, the town exhibits a tremendous amount of prejudice towards him and his family. The townspeople believe that as a white man, Atticus should not present a proper defense for a colored person, but Atticus believes that as a man of the law, he should do his best in the case because he believes in equal rights and fair judgment. Atticus Finch is a major object of vicious comments by the civilians of Maycomb. The people of Maycomb chose to be based because they believe that a black person will always be guilty even before the case is brought to trial. Mr. Bob Ewell confronts Atticus after the trial at the post office corner, spits in his face and says “Too proud to fight, you nigger-lovin' bastard?” (248). these actions do not bother Atticus because he knows that he is doing the right thing by defending Tom properly.
Despite the fact that prejudice is an act shamed upon by our modern society, it wasn’t a severe problem in 20th century Maycomb. The majority of the Maycomb townspeople do not attempt to help victims of prejudice since almost everyone shares the same beliefs. However, the few people that do have morals in Maycomb such as Ms. Maudie do their best to provide help for those who fall victim to the unfair judgment. Ms. Maudie believes in equal treatment for everyone. She dislikes it when people talk about Boo Radley and does her best to defend him. When Miss Stephanie tries to spread tales of Boo's fearsomeness, Miss Maudie doesn't just refuse to listen, she tries to find ways to get her to be quiet, like when she tells the kids about the time “Stephanie Crawford even told me once she woke up in the middle of the night and found him looking in the window at her. I said what did you do, Stephanie, move over in the bed and make room for him? That shut her up a while” (51). Ms. Maudie disapproves of people talking about Boo Radley because she knows what is right and does not want the children to grow up believing in the stories that they hear because they are full of bias and prejudice. She tries to show them right from wrong by explaining to them that the things they hear about Boo being a monster is just “…three-fourths colored folks and one-fourth Stephanie Crawford,”(51). This means that the haunted house and Boo being a wild man are just stories passed around town by people who are disrespectful and like to gossip. She tells them that Boo doesn’t have to come out if he doesn’t want to and that people should just let him be. To conclude, Prejudice in the novel affects the plot in many ways. The racial and social prejudice obstructs Tom Robinson and Atticus from obtaining a justifiable result to the trial. The children are also affected by prejudice because they are beginning to understand the feelings that the townspeople have towards their father and how it’s wrong for them to say that Tom is guilty. I believe that prejudice is a very wrong but powerful action and it is capable of destroying a person’s mentality. It is unfair for someone to build judgment about a person without knowing all the facts just because their race, religion