The Theme of Racism in To Kill a Mockingbird Essay
1050 Words5 Pages
In the book To Kill a Mockingbird, many minor themes are present such as gender and age. However, the largest and therefore major theme of the book is racism. All of the events and themes in the book had only one purpose, to support the theme of racism.
One of the most important events in the book was Tom Robinson’s trial, which was unfairly judged due to the fact that the jury could not see beyond the color of Tom’s skin. The put their own racist opinions ahead of what is right and just. One of the most important events in the novel circulated around racism. However, the most focused on point of Tom’s life was not the only point in his life where racism has been shown towards him. The Ewell’s are a major source of racism towards Tom.…show more content…
This was unlike how African-Americans would act during this time-period. They would have a specific way of speaking without proper grammar. This was shown by the attitude and behavior by the members in the church. During church, if Calpurnia had acted proper she would have been seen as acting like a Caucasian and seen as racist. To prevent this, she acted like everybody else.
Calpurnia’s son Zeebo is another example of racism. In everyday society, he is seen as just a low garbage man however, in church he is one of the most important figures as he is one of only four members of the church who can read. In addition, he leads the hymns since he can read. In the church, the method used for the hymns is the "repeat after me" method. Zeebo starts a line of the hymns and the line is the repeated by the rest of the church. Instead of just being a lowly garbage man, which is what the Caucasian population of Maycomb County, sees him, as he is a very important figure in the eyes of the African- American church members.
Although racism was commonly present in Maycomb County, many individuals were non-racist. One example of this was Atticus. Atticus was a prime example of non-racism in the novel. He was one of the few homeowners who appreciated his African-American housekeeper; he treated Calpurnia as a person and was humane to her. In most cases, the homeowner would be mean to her however, since Atticus was non-racist, he was kind to her. In addition, he even
Most critics agree that the strength of To Kill a Mockingbird lies in Harper Lee’s use of the point of view of Scout. This point of view works in two ways: It is the voice of a perceptive, independent six-year-old girl and at the same time it is the mature voice of a woman telling about her childhood in retrospect. Lee skillfully blends these voices so that the reader recognizes that both are working at the same time but that neither detracts from the story. Through the voice of the child and the mature reflection of the adult, Lee is able to relate freshly the two powerful events in the novel: Atticus Finch’s doomed defense of Tom Robinson and the appearance of the town recluse, Boo Radley. The child’s voice gives a fresh approach to looking at the racism issue in the novel. Both Scout and Jem struggle with confusion over why some people are acceptable in the social strata of their community and others are not. As Scout wisely answers Jem, “There’s just folks.” The mature adult voice serves to give the reader reflections on the events that a child could not yet see.
Regarding the plights of Tom Robinson and Boo Radley, Lee draws on the symbol of the mockingbird. Both Tom and Boo are victims of the prejudices of their community. Tom, who is an innocent black man accused of rape, is convicted by a white jury even though Atticus Finch proves that the evidence against Tom is false. Boo is another victim—first, of his father’s harsh religious views, and second, of the town’s ignorance and gossip. Both men are closely related to the symbol of the mockingbird. Atticus and Miss Maudie, their wise neighbor, tell the children it is a sin to kill a mockingbird because the bird brings only pleasure to humans. When Tom is killed trying to escape, the editor of Maycomb’s newspaper likens Tom’s death to the senseless killing of songbirds by hunters and children. Later, after Atticus and the sheriff decide not to tell anyone that Boo Radley killed Ewell in defense of the Finch children, Scout agrees and equates exposing Boo Radley to the curious town to killing a mockingbird.
Two major themes dominate the novel: that of growing from ignorance to knowledge and that of determining what is cowardice and what is heroism. The “ignorance-to-knowledge” theme is developed through the characterization of the maturing children. Scout and Jem both develop understanding and an awareness of the adult world as they grow through their experiences. Lee represents children as having a fairer sense of justice than adults. Thus, when Robinson is convicted, the children are the ones who cannot accept it. Atticus’ insistence that his children learn to be tolerant and not judge people only on appearances becomes one of the moral lessons of the book.
The other theme regards the children’s growing awareness of what is cowardice and what is true heroism. The central figure and model for them here is their father, Atticus. In part 1, the children do not consider their father much of a hero because he will not play football with the Baptists. Only when Atticus shoots a rabid dog do the children learn that their humble father is “the deadest shot in Maycomb county.” Atticus tries to redefine heroism for the children when he has Jem and Scout read to the hated Mrs. Dubose. He tells them after her death that she was a morphine addict trying to free herself of her addiction before dying. Atticus comments that true heroism is “when you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway.” In part 2 of the novel, Atticus lives up to this definition of heroism by his courageous defense of Tom Robinson.