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To Kill a Mocking Bird Essay

By jacobavolio Jan 11, 2011 1239 Words
To Kill a Mockingbird, a love story, by Harper Lee has a few very intriguing themes. However one of the most important aspects of the novel is the setting. Harper Lee, creates a realistic and original setting where the conflicts and issues of the plot are unique to its setting in Maycomb Alabama during the 1930's. The tightly knit cast of characters and the town’s involvement and disapproval towards Atticus Finch only happens in a town such as Maycomb. As poverty, discrimination, and maturity characterize the Maycombians.

From the beginning pages of the novel Scout, the narrator describes Maycomb. "Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it." (Lee 9) She goes on to explain how Maycomb is quite boring "There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy, and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County." (Lee 10) This gives the reader the impression that most people in Maycomb are poor, including Scouts family. However very promptly this image changes, as the reader discovers they have a "personal" cook. "We lived on the main residential street in town-- Atticus, Jem and I, plus Calpurnia our cook." (Lee 10). This indicates the Finch's are doing very well, technically they should be struggling as it is the Great Depression. Furthermore, today’s average family would not have its own personal cook. Another reference to the theme of poverty is when Scout describes the payment system of the Cunningham’s, Atticus did some legal work for Walter Cunningham’s father, Atticus had the Cunningham’s pay back their dues by delivering anything they could produce on their farm. “Why does he pay you like that?’ I asked. ‘Because that’s the only way he can pay me. He has no money.’” (Lee 25) Another indication of poverty is when Scout describes the Ewell family “Maycomb's Ewells lived behind the town garbage dump. . . .The cabin's plank walls were supplemented with sheets of corrugated iron, its roof shingled with tin cans hammered flat. . . .” (Lee 172)

The theme of discrimination in the novel brings out the true colours of Maycomb and its inhabitants. The reader is introduced to a character that is characterized by Scout as a malevolent phantom. Arthur Radley, nicknamed Boo Radley, is a mysterious character to the children. Talking about Boo gives them the same thrill as telling scary stories around a campfire. Never having seen him, they don’t quite believe he is a real person. Rumors are spread, and the reader has no option but to imagine Boo as the kids do. "So Jem received most of his information from Miss Stephanie Crawford, … His father entered the room. As Mr.Radley passed by, Boo drove the scissors into his parent’s leg, pulled them out, wiped them on his pants, and resumed his activities." (Lee 15) Jem and Scout develop an understanding that Boo is a dangerous and scary man, who isn’t very nice. The racism towards the blacks of Maycomb is heavily described by Lee. Numerous situations occur in the book where African American people are verbally abused. An example of this is when Cecil Jacobs announced to the school yard, that Scout’s dad defends niggers. However a more prominent instance was when Mrs. Dubose was insulting Jem and Scout from across the side walk. “‘Yes indeed, what has this world come to when a Finch goes against his raising? I’ll tell you!’ She put her hand to her mouth. When she drew it away, it trailed a long silver thread of saliva. ‘Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for!’” This is one of the most powerful quotes of the novel, as the reader has a clear and convinced depiction of the racism which unveils one of the many dark secrets of the Maycombians. All the racial comments towards the children, where mainly caused by the disapproval of all the town members because Atticus Finch, the towns best lawyer has decided to defend a black man in court, Tom Robinson. The trial of Tom Robinson becomes the biggest event of the plot.  The townspeople didn't like black people at all.  They were two different kinds of people according to them, and the fact that a white man would stand up for a black man in that town got them very upset. "Yeah, but Atticus aims to defend him.  That's what I don't like about it." (Lee 165) Atticus was unable to bring about a just verdict because he was in a very prejudiced court and, regardless of the proof, the outcome would still be the same.  Atticus knew that Tom Robinson would be found guilty. The victim, Mayella, had been beaten, but not by Tom.  Tom Robinson would still be imprisoned because of the all-white jury. Even the reader could justify the fact that Tom Robinson had not raped Mayella, judging by his physical attributes which made him handicapped. “Tom Robinson's powerful shoulders rippled under his thin shirt. He rose to his feet and stood with his right hand on the back of his chair. He looked oddly off balance, but it was not from the way he was standing. His left arm was fully twelve inches shorter than his right, and hung dead at his side. It ended in a small shriveled hand, and from as far away as the balcony I could see that it was no use to him.” (Lee 188) However even with this evidence for the jury to see, he was still sentenced.

Another aspect of the novel that the reader may realize as the plot develops is the maturity of Jem and Scout. The two siblings are introduced in the book younger than they are as it finishes. However their image of Boo Radley in particular changes over the course of the novel and Scout’s idea of her father also develops into a more educated one that it first seemed. In the beginning of the story, Jem, Scout, and Dill fabricate horror stories about Boo. They find Boo as a character of their enjoyment, and one who has no feelings. They tried to get a peep at him, just to see what Boo looked like. Scout connects Boo with the Mockingbird. Mrs. Maudie defines a mockingbird as one who "…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" (Lee 94). Boo is exactly that. Boo is the person who put a blanket around Scout and Jem when it was cold. Boo was the one putting "gifts" in the tree. Boo even sewed up Jem’s pants that tore when the children ran to escape the Radley house. Boo was the one who saved their lives. Scout’s idea changes about Boo, Boo never harms anyone. Scout also realizes that she wrongfully treated Boo when she thinks about the gifts in the tree. She never gave anything back to Boo, except love at the end. Scout learns what a Mockingbird is, and who represents one. Boo not only plays an important role in evolving Scout and Jem, but helps in developing the novel.

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