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To Kill a Mockingbird

By mediator117 Nov 24, 2007 989 Words
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a novel which consists of a number of positive and negative themes. Lee has utilised the way of life and the attitude towards ‘Negros' in the 1930's to create a intriguing novel which has enlightened the wider community on the matters of racism and prejudice in America in the 1930's. Even though the novel has a dark plot line there are a number of positive themes presented to the reader throughout the story, e.g. education, bravery and growing up.

The theme of bravery is amplified by the characters of Atticus and Jem. Atticus is the moral voice of the novel and his decision to defend Tom Robinson even though he knows there would be controversy and attacks on his character and family establishes his bravery. Early in the novel Jem learns that Atticus' disapproval of guns and Atticus's opinion that guns don't make men brave. This is distinguished when Atticus refuses to carry a gun to protect Tom and himself from the angry farmers is another sign of his bravery. Jem also exhibits his bravery during the scene where the mob came to ‘lynch' Tom Robinson. He refuses to leave his father's side even after being ordered to by his father. Jem shows the utmost bravery to remain at with his father and face the angry mob of farmers. Another character who is brave is Mrs Dubose who is trying to wean herself of drugs before he dies. In the novel Scout makes a direct reference to Mrs Dubose and bravery, e.g. "I wanted to see what real courage is . . . she was the bravest person I ever knew" says Scout. These characters in the novel have been developed and in a number of scenes they have shown the reader their bravery.

In this novel Lee has helped the reader understand the positive theme of growing up in a segregated country. Even though Jem and Scout are surrounded by the dark events of Maycomb they are still able to enjoy themselves, e.g. by re-enacting the Boo Radley case. Lee has written the story in first-person and form the view of Scout when she was a young girl. The fact that the story is the Scout's memories helps accentuate the theme of growing up. The actual events of the novel expand over three years and over this amount of time Jem and Scout learn a number of valuable moral lessons, e.g. Atticus' lesson "You never really understand a person until you climb into their skin and walk around in it." Scout finally understood this lesson when she begins to comprehend that Boo Radley is a human being. The theme of growing-up is seen throughout the entire novel as Jem and Scout grow up and begin to mature.

The theme of friendship is influential in the novel with the relationship of Dill with Scout and Jem. Dill opens an entirely new world to Scout and Jem through his experience in outside the small town of Maycomb. There is also a kind of friendship between Atticus and his children. This is shown through the children calling him Atticus instead of father. The fact that Atticus and the children have a close relationship aids the children's opinions towards Atticus' teachings; they would take the teachings as life advice and an insight from a close friend.

Moral education is an important theme in the novel. The whole novel has recurring references to moral education. Atticus has become an excellent role model for his children because he believes that is his role as a father, e.g. "Before Jem looks at anyone else he looks at me, and I've tried to live so I can look squarely back at him." says Atticus. Atticus believes that he needs set an example for Jem because Jem looks up to him. Atticus has taught his children not only how to read and write but how they should approach complications in their lives. The conclusion of the novel tells the reader that education is the key to unlocking the ignorance that causes prejudice.

Racial prejudice is a major theme in the story and is accentuated by the structure of the novel. Most of the townsfolk in Maycomb have prejudice against ‘Negros' due to their physical differences. The ‘Negros' residing in Maycomb are considered inferior to the ‘white' population. This is shown in the outcome of Tom Robinson's trial. Atticus provided a strong case which proves that Tom is innocent, e.g. the right side Mayella Ewell's face was beaten showing that a left-handed person probably caused the damage, but Tom's left hand was rendered useless after an accident. Even though there was sufficient proof that Tom wasn't guilty the jury which consisted of white people only found him guilty. The jury was unable to find a ‘Negro' innocent over a white family.

There is also prejudice against Arthur ‘Boo' Radley. The town has grown to fear him after he left the basement of the courthouse. The children of Maycomb were raised to fear him as the town freak. This is shown through Jem, Scout, and Dill's first opinions of Boo Radley. The three children's opinion of Boo quickly alters after they release that Boo had saved Jem and Scout during Bob Ewell's revenge seeking attempt to kill Jem and Scout after the pageant.

Throughout the novel Harper Lee has utilised the novel structure, characters and events to accentuate the themes of the novel, whether they be positive or negative. She developed the unique characters in the novel to aid the reader's understanding of the themes, e.g. moral education and friendship. Lee has created a novel which provides a non- bias view to the issue of racism and prejudice towards ‘Negros' in America in the 1930's.

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