Top-Rated Free Essay

To Kill a Mockingbird Essay

Good Essays
To Kill a Mockingbird Essay – Racism and Prejudice
Harper Lee uses her book To Kill a Mockingbird to explore two major issues; racism and prejudice. Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. The issue of racism is explored through Tom Robinson and his court case, where Tom Robinson; a black man; was accused of raping a white girl, he is convicted purely because he is a black man and his accuser is white. Harper Lee uses Tom’s court case and the symbol of the mockingbird to explore the issue of racism. Prejudice is making a judgement or assumption about someone or something before having enough knowledge to be able to do so with guaranteed accuracy. Harper also uses Boo Radley to express the issue of prejudice; Harper expresses this through the way the town judges Boo Radley, before they even know him, they assume he is some crazy mean psychopath who stays inside all the time and never shows his face outside, where in fact he is not mean, or crazy in any way and also saves the lives of Jem and Scout. These issues are explored further throughout the novel.
Racism is commonly portrayed throughout the novel, Harper Lee uses many different situations and events in the novel, to discuss the issues of racism. Through the symbol of the mockingbird, Harper Lee expresses the issue of racism with the mockingbird as a symbol of racism. As Ms Maudie explains to scout how it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird, Mockingbirds 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. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird. Pg 99-100. Ms Maudie explains to Scout here, killing a mockingbird is a sin, as the mockingbirds don’t do anything wrong they just sing and make music for people without causing any harm, just like the issue of racism. People disapprove of negros when they do nothing wrong. This is portrayed through the mockingbird as a similar situation. Negros are judged when they do absolutely nothing wrong, but they are harmed and blamed, for things they haven’t done. The negros should be treated as if they themselves were a mockingbird, causing no harm, just moving on with their lives, but instead they are having people continually discriminate against them and there is nothing they can do, all because of the colour of their skin. This is a major issue throughout the novel and Harper Lee uses this symbol of the mockingbird to depict this issue well.
Another event Harper Lee uses to depict the issue of racism is Tom Robinson’s court case. Here Tom Robinson is accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell. Atticus declares to put a dent in the racist society, by defending Tom Robinson in his case against the Ewell’s. Atticus says to Jem and Scout, "As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash” pg 243. Here Atticus tries to explain to Jem and Scout that, even if you’re a white man, it is still wrong to cheat a black man and if you do, you are considered trash. "There's nothing more sickening to me than a low-grade white man who'll take advantage of a Negro's ignorance. Don't fool yourselves – it's all adding up and one of these days we're going to pay the bill for it. I hope it's not in you children's time." pg 243. Atticus shows his concern for the way society is today, he is concerned about the racism in society and how it’s going to effect Jem and Scout’s life when they get older. Atticus hopes for the best and tries to changes things, now while he can.
Atticus knows that even though the court case still stands, that he is going to lose, yet he still defends Tom Robinson, knowing in full what is going to happen. “Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us to try to win,” pg 84. Atticus plans to change people’s opinion of racism, and prove his point to everyone in Maycomb - that you cannot just accuse a man of raping a girl just because he black.
Another issue explored in To Kill a Mockingbird is Prejudice. Prejudice is demonstrated throughout this book through the subplot of Boo Radley. Atticus tells his children that we never really know a man until we stand in his shoes. “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-“ pg 33. “-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” pg 33. Atticus explains to Scout not to judge a man a man by the way he looks, or the stories and rumours you hear about him. Boo Radley is misjudged and mocked by Dill, Jem and Scout, they stories and myths about him, and believe that he is a crazy psychopath. As the stories spread further and become bigger and more emphasized, Jem, Scout and Dill become more and more intrigued. One day the heard a story from Miss Stephanie Crawford, “According to Miss Stephanie, Boo was sitting in the living room cutting some items from the Maycomb Tribune to paste in his scrapbook. His father entered the room. As Mr Radley passed by, Boo drove the scissors into his parent’s leg,” pg 12. This story was a myth, but the children began to take interest in it and created their own mock play of the story they had heard. This was prejudice toward Boo Radley and Atticus was always telling the children to ‘leave that poor man alone’. The children are generally racist toward Boo Radley without even realising it, and in the end Boo Radley end sup saving their lives and is in no a dangerous or harmful man. The way Boo Radley had been judged led the children to think otherwise. Throughout the novel Harper Lee portrays this issue through Boo Radley and the way the children took interest in him, and judged him incorrectly.
To Kill a Mockingbird goes into depth about Racism and Prejudice, and Harper Lee portrays this in her novel through many subplots. This novel uses different language motives and emotions, through the narrative voice of a young girl, to have an effect on the reader, of the importance of equality in a society with a black and white population.

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    Bryant 9/25/12 To Kill a Mockingbird Essay To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was a pivotal novel in literature at the time of its release and is looked at as a modern day classic. It has been renowned as a masterpiece of modern day American literature. For its strong and colorful characters, realistic yet fitting setting, and serious yet eye-opening topics and themes are just a handful of reasons why this book is so strong. For these reasons along with others…

    • 771 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Practise Essay- How does Part One of “To Kill a Mockingbird” show the importance of understanding individual difference? Harper Lee’s 1960 novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” conveys the importance of understanding individual difference through many aspects. Individual difference is the fact that every person is different from the other, that no one is the same and we all have our different views and opinions. This is portrayed through Miss Caroline’s unfriendliness towards Scout, the different…

    • 805 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Better Essays

    Content within Books To Kill a Mockingbird Essay Assignment ENG 1D1 03 Alex Gardner December 2010 Mr. Przemieniecki Inappropriate content within books There are many different books that are studied in schools, but one should be removed from shelves. Students should not be reading about certain subject matters until they are fully invested into that specific subject. Certain inappropriate topics are racism and dated subject matter. The book, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, should be…

    • 921 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Honors English 10 To Kill A Mockingbird Essay In the book, To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee shows how racism, gender roles, and education caused a negative affect on everyday life during the 1930s. Maybe one has never dealt with racism but that someone in that person’s family has; reading Lee’s book may make them feel as if they are right there in the 1930s. The way people of any race in the community used to treat others compared to the way people are treated now is much different. Things…

    • 430 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Alex Kovacev Mr.Kasper ENG 1D1 Wednesday, November-07-12 Mockingbird Essay How would you feel if a town full of prejudice tormented you because of your past? Well this becomes a reality in To Kill a Mockingbird for two very innocent people. Through the symbol of the Mockingbird, and the characters of Tom Robinson and Boo Radley, Harper Lee examines the necessity of protecting vulnerable members of society in To Kill a Mockingbird. Jem introduces Boo as a blood thirsty animal, but when…

    • 579 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Briana Jackson March 1st, 2013 To Kill a Mockingbird – Part I Essay To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a classic bildungsroman novel that depicts a persistent sense of maturity that is distinctive throughout the first part of the story. Maturity can be seen as either an understanding that comes with age, or an understanding that comes with experience. Set in the Deep South during the Great Depression, Jem and Scout Finch learn the real life in Maycomb…

    • 565 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    To Kill A Mockingbird In “To Kill a Mockingbird” by harper lee clearly says that killing a mockingbird is a sin because it does not commit crimes,besides making its beautiful music. therefore there are a few characters in the story that could be considered to be mockingbirds. Tom robinson could be considered to be the most obvious mockingbird in the book. furthermore in chapter 17-19 in the court session while tate the sheriff, and mr ewell, and Tom Robinson made their testimonies it…

    • 712 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Practice Essay Cultural values and social practices change and evolve over time. Cultural values and social practices inevitably over time as individuals and societies are subject to change with it. In the timeless bildungsroman novel, “To Kill A Mockingbird” (1960) written by Harper Lee, it explores the confronting experiences of a young child, living in a world of racism, injustice and disability. In a more modern context, however, the novel “The Family Law” (2009) written by Benjamin Law, is…

    • 1658 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    To kill a mockingbird Essay Scout is quite a character in the book to kill a mocking bird. She goes through many adventures, yet many tribulations. She learns a lot of lessons, and is taught some values in life on what to do, and, what not to so. With her being a character with importance in the novel, it would be necessary for some of her character traits to be gone over. These are some traits that describe scout. Tomboyish, anyone who has ever read to kill a mockingbird knows that scout is…

    • 443 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ – Essay “Jem and Scout learn many lessons about life during the course of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. What do you believe to be the most important? Consider what Atticus and Calpurnia attempt to teach the children during the story.” During the course of the novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee, the siblings Scout and Jem learn many important life lessons. They are taught a number of important lessons by adult figures in their life, like Atticus, Calpurnia and many others…

    • 1067 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays