To Kill a Mockingbird: the Humble Terms of Prejudice

About To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird tells the story of a young narrator’s prejudice from innocence to experience as her father confronts the humble terms of life in the countryside. In the Southern Depression, in witnessing the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of sexual assault, Scout gains insight into her city and family. She confronts her prejudices through her encounter with Boo Radley, a reclusive mystery man whom Scout initially perceives as a terrifying ghost-like creature. The novel’s resolution comes when Boo saves Scout and her brothers.

Scout realizes that Boo is a fully human, noble being. At the same time, she experiences an inevitable disappointment when she is confronted with the realities of human nature. Her town’s deep-rooted racism, unjust punishment, and the murder of Tom Robinson force Scout to acknowledge social inequality and the darker aspects of humanity. Atticus, Scout’s father, represented morality and justice. However, as Scout becomes more sensitive to those around her, she sees the effects of her struggle to stay pure and kind in a compromised world.

Scout: the Innocence

To Kill a Mockingbird opens with humble terms, referring to Scout’s prejudice and Jem, Scout’s brother, who broke his arm when he was thirteen. Not sure where to start, Scout said she would explain the events leading up to the injury. In addition to raising questions about the influence of the past on the present, she starts her narrative almost three years before the events.

After tracing her family history and explaining how her father, Atticus, became a lawyer in Maycomb, Alabama, Scout presents Maycomb as a sleepy town still rooted in the rhythms and rituals of its past. Her characterization of love for the city describes it as an ideal place to be a child. Scout and Jem played in the street all day during the summer. Harper Lee contrasts the opening scene of salvation and innocence, then describes it in a more mature and nuanced way about the darker aspects of the city and the price of its attachment to the past.

Boo: the Prisoners of War

Scout tells a series of humorous stories that introduce readers to the main characters in To Kill a Mockingbird and establish the humble terms of prejudice in specific chapters. Dill, Scout, and Jem try to lure their mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley, out of his house. Boo has been living as a prisoner in his home after getting into trouble as a teenager. When he was in his thirties, he stabbed his father in the leg with a pair of scissors. He has become a gossip figure, scaring children with his seemingly gruesome and ghostly nature.

Burris Ewell, another child at the school, introduces readers to the Ewell family, who will later become prominent figures in the book. The Ewells were a violent, antisocial clan that relied on government aid and only sent their children to school one day a year, to avoid truant officers. Burris threatens the teacher with violence, foreshadowing a violent attack by his father later in the story. Bob, Burris’ father, represents racism and a violent past in the South and is an antagonist.

Tom: the Black Sheep

The main incident of To Kill a Mockingbird occurs when Scout learns from other children that his father is defending a black man, Tom Robinson, who has been charged with assaulting Mayella Ewell, a white woman. When Scout and Jem’s neighbor, Mrs. Dubose, verbally harassed the children about their father’s work, Jem retaliated by destroying her garden. The story further develops the idea of gaining empathy for others by understanding their situation.

Atticus’ admiration for Mrs. Dubose was later echoed in Scout’s admiration for his belief in his values, even at the potential cost of his safety. The white community in Maycomb was furious and attempted to execute Tom while Atticus kept Tom in his cell all night. However, Scout saves Tom and Atticus by stopping the attempted lynching. Inadvertently, she reminded the masses of their children. The thoughtful combination characterizes Scout’s narrative from beginning to end.

Atticus: the Voice

The climax of To Kill a Mockingbird occurs at the end of Tom’s trial and the delivery of the jury’s verdict. At the trial, Scout and Jem sneak in and sit with the black audience despite Atticus forbidding them to attend. In his defense, Atticus establishes that Tom is physically unable to attack Mayella, and points out that Mayella approached Tom for sex. Mayella’s father, Bob, beats her when he sees them together. Atticus also paints a portrait of Maycomb that is bleaker and more troubling than Scout’s earlier description of the city. In questioning Mayella about her family circumstances, he reveals the economic disparity between relatively comfortable families such as the Finch and the Ewells.

Despite Atticus’ defense, the jury convicts Tom, in the climactic opposite of the reader’s expectation that good will triumph over evil. In the end, Tom is shot dead while trying to escape from prison. The event underscores how thoroughly the justice system has failed Tom and the black community of Maycomb, as both Scout and Jem must reconcile their new understanding of the world with ideas and moral standards.

Bob: the Endgame

A few months after the trial, following the Halloween contest, Bob attacks Scout and Jem, breaking Jem’s arm, after feeling humiliated by the system and the event. Suddenly, Boo Radley saves them by killing Bob with his knife. Boo shows how the community can be a soft social critique of a series of trials.

However, Boo’s closed-minded attitude and Atticus’ decision to say Bob Ewell fell on his knife show that both men still view the community as a destructive entity. Boo’s kindness restores Scout’s faith in humanity and shows that she feels ready to face the world with her new, mature understanding of complexity. After all, Lee left behind the bigger problem of racism and economic inequality in the South.

The Conflict of Prejudice

The core’s discussion of To Kill a Mockingbird, in general, is about prejudice and the conflict of racism. It is driven by one of the most interesting and memorable scenes that causes two dramatic deaths to occur in the story. On one level, the book represents a simplistic view of racial prejudice. Racist white people are bad, and bad white people are good.

In this case, Atticus risks his dilemma, mistakenly, in which Bob Ewell accuses him of raping, spitting on Atticus in public, and trying to kill a child for being racist. It tries to look at the complexities of living in a racist society as well as trying to introduce Scout and Jem to dealing with everything from discomfort to hostility as they find out how their family’s resistance stands in the community at large against racial prejudice.

The Morality of Racism

In humble terms, the treatment of prejudice in To Kill a Mockingbird is from a perspective that shows how readers see the simplicity of morality between characters. One would think that racism is a problem that exists among educated and physically stable white people. However, one would also think how racism also involves stupid and poor white people. Black characters were rarely given a voice on the topic of racism except in the decades that followed, not only in the form of literature.

When they speak, mostly in terms of gratitude for white people, both good and bad, writers always feature black characters in an attempt to fight racist abuse. However, Lee shows how black characters try to back down from these topics. A simple example is when Tom Robinson tried to escape from prison. Black characters never respond actively to racism but are most often reactive.

The Social Hierarchy

From prejudices in the first place, a difference in social status was born, which was represented through Maycomb’s social hierarchy. The intricacies that constantly confused the children, little by little, began to be revealed. Finch, relatively wealthy, stood near the top of the hierarchy. However, the Cunninghams were subordinate to the townspeople as rural farmers. It is also true of the Ewells resting under the Cunninghams.

The black community was under the Ewell family. Bob Ewell made it possible to cover his shortcomings by persecuting Tom Robinson. The rigid social divisions that shape so much of the adult world are beginning to unfold. One example is when Scout could not understand why she had to hang out with Walter Cunningham. The critique of class status’ role as prejudice intends to illustrate how confusion becomes a layer of the system.

Harper Lee

Harper Lee was born on April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama, and died on February 19, 2016, in Monroeville. She became the nationally recognized American author of her book To Kill a Mockingbird, written in 1960. She is the daughter of Amasa Coleman Lee, a lawyer who seems more like the hero father of her novels in citizenship. The plot of the book is largely based on his failed young defense of two African-American men convicted of murder

She also studied law at the University of Alabama, spent the summer as an exchange student at Oxford, and went to New York City without earning a degree. In New York, she worked as an airline reservationist. However, she soon received financial assistance from friends, which allowed her to write full time. With the help of an editor, she turned a series of short stories into a novel.

Bibliography

About the author

Salman Al Farisi is the owner of Calxylian and is an elitist who has enjoyed and studied various mediums. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in 2020 from the Haluoleo University, Indonesia, where he studied English Literature, Film Criticism, Cultural Studies, Literary Theory, and Literary Criticism. He lives in Kendari in his mom's basement, now unemployed and ghostwriter, life with his cats, and is looking for the future.

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