To what extent is ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ a critique of the values promoted in Maycomb society?
Maycomb County is its own little world, made of real people but it reflects the wider world of America in terms of its attitudes, issues and characters. It, the microcosm which reflects the macrocosm of America, such as the way blacks are regarded and treated.
The story is told from a viewpoint of a growing 6 year old child, Scout Finch. So we are seeing situations from an innocent ‘eye’, ‘she looked and smelled like a peppermint drop’ after the misinforming way the child regards adults and the way they act and talk. This sober judgement is a truth to be understood by all young people because they don’t understand certain things in life. For example recognising the quality of their parents, such as when Atticus had the ‘best shot in the county’ with the mad dog incident. Scout discovers values of Atticus, which develops her respect for him. Scout doesn’t understand why ladies disapprove of the manner of her growing up, ‘Jean Louise stop scratching your head,’ and also why Atticus is very strict in what’s right and wrong. This again highlights her innocence and that she’ll soon learn to discover that things change in life and one must accept them. Scout represents how people develop attitudes because of a lack of knowledge. For example, she imagines Boo Radley being a ‘malevolent phantom’ which is based purely on hearsay. She comes to learn that people can be different yet there need be no prejudice against them. This is shown by the way she grew to understand Boo Radley and really she’s teaching a lesson to the community through the words and visions of the writer. This idea is portrayed in the New Testament where children, without prejudging through their innocence, show adults the way they should act.
Scouts point of view idealises the belief in power of the Law but the reality is that the Law failed Tom Robinson, ‘Guilty…Guilty…Guilty.’ We see how savage, normally reasonable adults can be when they came as a lynching party to prison. As in the book, the ‘Lord of the Flies’, we are shown that civilization is only a thin veneer and just below the surface people are savage and vicious. ‘You know what we want get aside from the door Mr Finch,’ was quoted by a member of the lynch mob. It is interesting how the author is the innocent child throughout the novel, as there is hope on one side for a better world with the next generation, but a fear that when the child will grow, she may turn into the character of other adults and so loose her innocence.
Hope is also indicated for the black community where, if lucky, had white people beginning to openly support them. At that time, however, the feeling was not strong enough and the accused black man was doomed to be condemned before the trial even started. For example, when Atticus forcefully showed that Tom was innocent and that the Ewells were lying, with proof, the verdict was still going to be guilty and the reader certainly gets the feeling of white supremacy when Tom was shot in prison. This shows that it is victimisation as there was no ‘absence of any corroborative evidence.’ The white ladies of Maycomb society were a very typical group of hypocritical gossips. The majority belonged to the Missionary society in which gossip would be rife. For example when they lamented over an African tribe called the Mrunas and their living conditions, it lead to a discussion about how ungrateful the women believe Maycomb’s African-American community is. ‘Her eyes were always filled with tears...those poor Mrunas…not a white person will go near em,’ however, they were failing to see that they have their own brand of racial discrimination happening in their daily lives. This is highlighted in the set out of Maycomb town. Through segregation, the blacks lived on one side of the ‘railway track’ and the whites on another. This also applied to the churches that the citizens...
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