In looking closer at the famous and controversial novel, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, many themes are observed. One theme is good vs. evil which can be seen in Atticus himself and throughout the town. Many critics portray Atticus Finch as a hero, who was willing to stand by an innocent black man in a racist southern town. Others, however, do not see any reason to applaud the work of Atticus Finch because he was ordered by the courts to defend Tom Robinson and did not choose to pick up this case. This would make him partly evil, even though he decided to give Robinson a good defense once appointed. Atticus can be viewed as the force of good standing against the evil of the town. Harper Lee uses these examples to demonstrate the struggle of racism versus righteousness in the area where she actually grew up in 1930's Alabama.
Harper Lee was raised in Alabama around the same time the story takes place, so she no doubt knew the causes and effects of racism. She wanted to present these in her book and give the reader a clear understanding of what the time period was like for her. According to R. Mason Barge, Atticus Finch is "a southern lawyer placing his career and life on the line for a wrongfully accused black man"(qtd. In Johnson 190). Since Lee herself grew up in a small rural, racist Alabama town, she experienced the effects of racism and growing up, saw it as a battle of good vs. evil. In the south at this time, a black man accused of rape would almost certainly be convicted, with or without overwhelming evidence. By moral standards today, this is almost the definition of evil. Any lawyer (who would have to be white because blacks were not permitted to become lawyers yet), that has taken a black man's side in a case against a white woman would certainly face barbs from the community. Even so, Atticus stood up for the black man's rights against the town as a pillar of good in a town filled with evil.
From the very beginning of the novel,...
Cited: Bloom, Harold. Bloom 's Notes. Broomall, PA: Chelsea House Publishers, 1996.
Johnson, Claudia Durst. Understanding To Kill A Mockingbird. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994.
Lee, Harper. To Kill A Mockingbird. New York: Warner Books, 1960.
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