To Kill a Mockingbird
The novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, takes place during a racially intense time in history. Harper Lee’s novel was intended to bring a harsh sense of reality to the real world, and was meant to demonstrate how it really was during this time in history. To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming-of-age story of Scout Finch and her brother, Jem, in 1930's Alabama. Through their neighborhood meanderings and the example of their father, they grow to understand that the world isn't always fair and that prejudice is a very real aspect of their world no matter how subtle it seems. This novel is set in Maycomb, Alabama, somewhere during the time period of 1925-1935. Times were hard for the citizens of Maycomb during this period, because of the depression. An innocent but humorous stance in this story is through the eyes of Scout and Jem Finch. Scout is a young adolescent who is growing up with the controversy that surrounds her father’s lawsuit. Her father, Atticus Finch is a lawyer who is defending a black man, Tom Robinson; with the charge of raping a white girl. The summer when Scout was six and Jem was ten, they met Dill, a little boy who spent the summer with his aunt who lived next door to the Finches. Dill and Jem become obsessed with the idea of making Boo Radley, the neighborhood recluse, come out of his home. They go through plan after plan, but nothing draws him out. However, these brushes with the neighborhood ghost result in a tentative friendship over time and soon the Finch children realize that Boo Radley deserves to live in peace, so they leave him alone. Scout and Jem's God-like father, Atticus, is a respected and upstanding lawyer in small Maycomb County. When he takes on a case that pits innocent black Tom Robinson against two dishonest white people, Atticus knows that he will lose, but he has to defend the man or he can't live with himself. The case is the biggest thing to hit Maycomb County in years and it turns the whole town against Atticus, or so it seems. Scout and Jem are forced to bear the slurs against their father and watch with shock and disillusionment as their fellow townspeople convict an obviously innocent man because of his race. The only real enemy that Atticus made during the case was Bob Ewell, the trashy white man who accused Tom Robinson of raping his daughter. Despite Ewell's vow to avenge himself against Atticus, Atticus doesn't view Ewell as any real threat. Tom Robinson is sent to a work prison to await another trial, but before Atticus can get him to court again, Tom is shot for trying to escape the prison. It seems that the case is finally over and life returns to normal until Halloween night. On the way home from a pageant, Bob Ewell attacks Jem and Scout in the darkness. Jem's arm is badly broken and their ghostly neighbor, Boo Radley, rescues Scout and her brother. In order to protect Boo's privacy, the sheriff decides that Bob Ewell fell on his own knife while he was struggling with Jem. Boo Radley returns home never to be seen again. There are many fictional events in this novel related to non-fictional racial events in history. Because exploration of the novel’s larger moral questions takes place within the perspective of children, the education of children is necessarily involved in the development of all of the novel’s themes. In a sense, the plot of the story charts Scout’s moral education, and the theme of how children are educated; how they are taught to move from innocence to adulthood. This theme is explored most powerfully through the relationship between Atticus and his children, as he devotes himself to instilling a social conscience in Jem and Scout. The scenes at school provide a direct counterpoint to Atticus’s effective education of his children: Scout is frequently confronted with teachers who are either frustratingly unsympathetic to children’s needs or morally hypocritical. As is true of To Kill a Mockingbird’s other moral themes, the novel’s conclusion about education is that the most important lessons are those of sympathy and understanding, and that a sympathetic, understanding approach is the best way to teach these lessons. In this way, Atticus’s ability to put himself in his children’s shoes makes him an excellent teacher while Miss Caroline’s rigid commitment to the educational techniques that she learned in college makes her ineffective and even dangerous. The novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, has many examples of racial issues involving types of racial groups and events. Many of the examples of racial issues that take place in this novel include mainly prejudice. The people of Maycomb still lived by the “old ways.” The citizens of Maycomb still speak to people of color as if they were living 100 years ago. For example, during Tom Robinson’s trial he is always referred to as a “boy” by the prosecuting attorney. Tom Robinson is a colored man who is being tried for raping a white man’s daughter. Another example of prejudice was a white man’s word was taken over a black man’s word, no matter what the circumstances were. “When it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins.” (Lee 220) This example could be related to the Scottsboro trial. The evidence presented in the Scottsboro case was all word-against-word, being white versus black. This represents the fact that the people of Maycomb would not believe anything that a Negro said simply because he was Negro. This is almost directly related to the Scottsboro boy’s case.
A major example of prejudice out of the novel is that Atticus, the father of the narrator, Scout, is judged for representing a Negro in the Court of Law. “Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for!” (Lee 102). This just shows that the citizens of Maycomb judged Atticus outside of the courtroom. Another major example of prejudice from the novel would be the fact that the Negroes live in a total separate part of the town. The colored people in this novel live in a place that is known as “The Quarters” (Lee 188), located near the town dump. This is a prime example that the black people were given second choice after the white people. “The Negroes, having waited for the white people to go upstairs, began to come in.” (Lee 163) This is just another example of the blacks getting second choice behind only the white people. “Four Negroes rose and gave us their front-row seats.” (Lee 164) This is another quote from the novel suggesting that blacks were not given an equal opportunity at things, not even for a seat in a courtroom. It can be concluded that there are many examples of prejudice in this novel, and that there are just that many more examples of prejudice in the real world. This novel has events and prejudice related to actual historical events, doing so shows a side of the non-fiction world that must be noticed by all. Harper Lee uses all of the judgments and prejudice in Maycomb to paint a vivid picture of a town that clings to the past and the way things have always been. Harper Lee's descriptions show the fault in the townspeople ability to examine the present and progress into the future.