To Kill A Mockingbird - Thomas Phillips Essay

To Kill A Mockingbird Thomas Phillips Essay

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To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee is a book about the prejudice, discrimination and bigotry that existed throughout much of America during the l930 s. It is a powerful story, narrated by a young girl, named Scout, whose innocent, na ve eyes reveal the hypocrisy and prejudice in her small Southern town. To Kill A Mockingbird explores many different themes that are skillfully woven into the plot. A black man named Tom Robinson is put on trial for allegedly raping a young white woman from the least respected family in town. Scout s father, Atticus, is appointed to defend the man accused of the crime. Maycomb, a town built on prejudice, is also steeped in the mystery of Boo Radley, a shy, bashful man who is feared and mistreated. Eventually, Boo Radley is appreciated and admired because he carries Scout s brother Jem to safety, away from Bob Ewell who was intent on hurting them as an act of revenge against their father Atticus who had proved him a liar during Robinson s trial. Scout finally accepts Boo as a nice friend and Atticus tells her that most people are nice when you get to know them. I d rather you shoot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you ll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit em, but remember it s a sin to kill a mockingbird, said Atticus. The reason the book is named To Kill a Mockingbird is that the mockingbird is a symbol for Tom Robinson and Boo Radley along with many other characters in a more vague way.The mockingbird characters throughout this novel do not harm anyone and are basically peaceful in nature, but are discriminated against because of the values the small town of Maycomb harbored since it was founded. Harper Lee adds characters, issues and situations, which must be filtered through Scout s mind and expressed, despite the fact that she is oblivious to many of these concepts. Her innocence adds an irony to the story since the issues are complicated and ambiguous. Certain characters have absorbed the ways of Maycomb county and are unwilling to change, while others such as Atticus and his neighbor Miss Maudie are very opened minded, seeing the problems of Maycomb very clearly. Atticus and Maudie treat Jem and Scout like adults, willing to hear what they say and truly listen to their ideas. Therefore, the children absorb more education from Atticus and Miss Maudie than formal schooling could ever provide. Many lessons taught by Atticus are directly correlated with the events occurring in the novel. One of these lessons is to never shoot a mockingbird because they do nothing to harm us and only supply a beautiful song for our ears. All of the lessons are important in the maturity of the children, and their views about prejudice and hypocrisy in their town. One lesson that relates to the mockingbird theme and also looks at the hypocrisy of the town is when Cecil, one of Scout s classmates, speaks about Adolf Hitler s campaign to rid the earth of the Jewish population. Scout s teacher, Mrs. Gates says, Over here we don t believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced. This statement confuses Scout because the town persecutes everyone that is different or from the outside. Earlier in the book, Scout overheard Mrs. Gates say, It was time that somebody taught them a lesson, while walking down the steps in front of the courthouse after Tom s trial. From this statement, Scout concludes that them is black people. Scout cannot understand how her teacher can feel good about Tom Robinson being unfairly convicted yet feel so passionately about the prejudice being inflicted on the Jews. The issue of discrimination is widespread throughout this novel. During the trial, it is evident that the testimony that Mayella Violet Ewell gave to the jury was false and was forced upon her. She did not want to testify falsely however she realized the repercussions the truth would bring. Due to this, she refused to reveal that Tom Robinson was innocent. Although the truth is not revealed by her testimony, Atticus exposes it in a brilliant way, leaving no room for doubt. He explains to the jury that Mayella was the aggressor, however the jury decides it is much better to convict a Negro man than believe that a white woman made sexual advances to a black man. Through Atticus questions it is discovered that Mayella was very similar to Boo Radley. Her father repeatedly beat her and she was extremely lonely. By creating this parallel between Mayella and Boo Radley, it is accurate and justified to say that she was also a mockingbird. Mayella was also an innocent person unjustly persecuted by her father so that he wouldn t be persecuted by society. When Tom Robinson is accused of rape, it is obvious how the laws governing the Negro and the white man are astronomically different. Tom Robinson s intentions were to only help Mayella with the problems she was experiencing around the house, but Bob Ewell saw something else, and ultimately that cost Tom his life. White women could not be accused of lying where a black man was concerned. It was unconscionable that a white woman would be attracted in any way to a black man, so the black man inevitably must be condemned. Aside from that, whites considered blacks much lesser forms of humanity so there was no equality associated with the two races. Therefore, convicting a black man in their eyes was easy and justifiable and quite insignificant. This is one example of an innocent mockingbird like Tom Robinson being unjustifiably, persistently and brutally persecuted because he is different than the white residents of Maycomb. Atticus says to Jem, 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. One of the briefest characters that Harper Lee introduced into the novel was Mr. Dolphus Raymond. Dolphus prefers to live with the Negroes, and is persecuted by the town because of it. Before the trial of Tom Robinson, Jem is talking to Scout and he starts to mention things about people. He tells Scout that Dolphus is a heavy drinker and that he prefers living with the Negroes. Dolphus later proves to the children that all he drinks is Coca-Cola, and he tells them that he lives with the Negroes because he wants to get away from the people who don t accept him. In Maycomb, men drink alcohol out of bags so as to not upset any of the ladies. The reason that Dolphus drinks Coca-Cola out of a bag, is because he knows the people don t accept him and he wants to give them a good reason not to. Boo Radley is definitely one of the most important characters - however he is carefully hidden from view until almost the end of the novel. He is unmistakably a mockingbird. This fact is drilled into Scout s mind at the end of the story when Boo is forced to kill Bob Ewell in order to save Scout and Jem. Scout realizes that to put such a shy unassuming man through a rigorous trial would be like killing a mockingbird. Also, in the beginning of the book, Boo is seen as a harmless man persecuted and tormented by the children because the town s prejudice has shaped a false image of him. Throughout the book, Boo Radley tries to communicate to the children that he is not the evil monster that the prejudiced people of Maycomb say he is. He leaves them gifts, comforts Scout with a blanket without her knowing, and later actually saves their lives. Again the issue of a harmless person tormented by society arises and can be compared to the mockingbird. Throughout the book Harper Lee equates a mockingbird with a helpless innocent person, and the killing of a mockingbird symbolizes an intentionally cruel action. Atticus instilled in his children firm beliefs in justice, courage and purpose and despite the hypocrisy and discrimination surrounding Jem and Scout in Maycomb, it is obvious they will be just like their father. Their realization that discrimination and prejudice is wrong and their willingness to absorb the knowledge that their father imparts shows that they will not grow up with the same attitudes as others in Maycomb. The children finally realize that the town creates false and evil identities behind innocent peaceful people, and that these people are persecuted by society. This is the true meaning of what it means to kill a mockingbird.

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