Racism in “To Kill a Mockingbird”
The novel “to kill a mockingbird” is a great political piece that attempts to cover various wholesome themes but mostly It covers racism as it main theme throughout the story.I personally feel that Harper lee is a brave writer who isn’t afraid to tell us the truth about racism.The racial affair that Harper Lee addresses in the book started well before her story and proceeded with long after.
So as to move through the numerous layers of bias that lee exposes in her novel, the reader needs to comprehend the intricate history of race relations and society guidelines in the Southern United States.
Harper lee has attempted to showcase the white fragility in the book to kill a mockingbird.
To kill a Mockingbird relies on the late-1950s liberal conception of race and class as its sociopolitical touchstone (Holcomb, 2002). It’s a wonderful story that has all the elements a good novel requires. It makes one happy, sad and angry and ends leaving the audience very dissatisfied because of the non-comforting sad ending.
To briefly walk through the plot of the movie, it takes place in Alabama during the Depression in 1930s. The bittersweet ambience of the Finch household and mysterious, Gothic milieu of? fictional Maycomb is very well portrayed (Holcomb, 2002). The story is narrated by the main character who’s a little girl named Jean Louise nicknamed “Scout”. She’s quite a rebellious girl who has some tomboy ways. She lives with her father Atticus finch, and her elder brother Jem.
Atticus Finch is a widower and lawyer who possesses a lot of ethics and high moral standards. They also have a kind hearted African American housekeeper named Calpurnia. The course of events is set amid the depression where the status of her father as a regarded and successful lawyer mitigates the Finch family from the brutality of the melancholy gripping the small town.
The judgment theme is delineated in the conditions that came to pass for Tom Robinson, a poor African-American field specialist who is charged and put on trial for sexual assault. He was accused of raping a white woman named Mayella Ewell. Atticus is selected by Judge Taylor as Robinson’s defence against the dissatisfaction of many of the town’s citizens. Regardless of the evident proves toms innocence, the jury convicts him. The racial nature of the racial oppression society puts all chances against Tom.
In “to kill a mocking bird” by Harper lee, even though Atticus finch is a logical, intelligent, observant, unbiased lawyer, it is fear beneath his anger and other’s prejudice that makes him behave the way he does. The extraordinary circumstances of the 1930’s help narrate a story where fear and tribal instincts triumphs over reasoning and thought.
We get to see that even though Atticus Finch’s arguments for Tom Robinson were completely based on logic, reasoning and intelligence, Harper lee shows how fear and racism can always be more powerful. Prejudice around us finds a way to reflect on our actions and can have a huge impact on people, we get to see various instances in the novel where prejudice comes into play. There are many signs of prejudice towards people.
There are clear instances where people’s beliefs, or what people think of one another are prejudiced. When we say the word prejudice the first words that come to our heads are words such as bias, judgment, unfairness, stereotyping and intolerance. There are various aspects of prejudice explored in the novel however the most prominent being the racial prejudice between the people of Macomb, Alabama. Racial prejudice exists throughout the novel and throughout the unfair trial of Tom Robinson.
Atticus finch loses the case to the racist jury of Macomb even though he followed logic and ethics while arguing his case for tom Robinson. This shows us that racism can work in ways which are very unfair.
Atticus finch knew that he was going to lose the case for tom Robinson since the jury of Macomb was an all white jury and yet he accepts the case. Also significant in understanding the epigraph is Atticus’ answer to Jem’s question of how a jury could convict Tom Robinson when he’s obviously innocent; “‘They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it, It seems that only children weep.'(Lee, 1960)
Atticus seeks to ethical quality and reason in the story. As a character, Atticus is impartial all through the story. He is one of the not many characters who never need to reevaluate his position on an issue. “Atticus can do no wrong. All of his choices are brave and noble, which is why the community of Maycomb ultimately puts its faith in him. Whether saving the town from a rabid dog, representing the county in the state legislature, or exposing the people to their own juridical hypocrisy” (Lubet, 1999).
He always has a clear mind and takes firm stands when it comes to any situation. He always took the ethical path into making any of his decisions. He knew that tom was not guilty of what he was being accused of. Atticus trusts in equity and the equity framework. He doesn’t really have a liking for criminal law, yet he acknowledges the arrangement to Tom Robinson’s case. He knows before he starts that he will lose this case, yet that doesn’t prevent him from giving Tom the most grounded protection he can.
What’s more, significantly, Atticus puts in a lot of effort into Tom’s case not on the grounds that he’s an African American, but since he is blameless. Atticus feels that the system of justice ought to be visually challenged, and he protects Tom as he thinks that tom is an innocent man and not a man of colour.
The Finch family faces a lot of unpleasant criticism in the heavily racist district of Maycomb after Atticus’s decides to defend Tom Robinson. But, Atticus persistently insists on continuing with the case because his conscience would not let him do otherwise. He knows Tom Robinson was an innocent man, and also that he has almost zero chance at being acquitted since the all white jury would any day support the white woman over a black man.
Despite this, Atticus wants to reveal the truth to the other members of the town and expose their bigotry. I feel like by doing this Atticus stands as an example of true courage where he possesses the will to keep fighting even when you know for yourself that you’re never going to win.
The Instincts-that we as a species developed through our history that we keep overriding and eroding exponentially with complex thought and logic- is so encompassing and strong that Scout and Jem and their father are attacked just for proving that Tom couldn’t have possibly committed the crimes that he is accused of.
This was what the situation was like in the district during the 1960s. People believed that a black person was never to be trusted and a while woman’s world should always be accepted over that of a black man. They based their judgment over the mere skin colour of the two partied instead of critically analyzing or applying reason and logic to the given facts.
Moreover, tom Robinson was disabled with just one hand. “The Ewells, after all, were a disappointment to their race. Social outcasts, they were drunk, illiterate, filthy, welfare-dependent, and worse. Tom Robinson, on the other hand, was a “respectable Negro,” polite, hard working, and not a troublemaker.” (Lubet, 1999). There are many instances in the book which support this claim as well. For example
When he was asked by Atticus if he ever once set his foot on the Ewells property without an “express invitation from one of them?” he replied with a lot of honesty “No suh, Mr. Finch, I never did. I wouldn’t do that, suh.” (Lee, 1960, 204) its also said by scout in one of the instances in the story during the court trial “He seemed to be a respectable Negro, and a respectable Negro would never go up into somebody’s yard of his own volition.” (Lee, 1960, 204)
Tom was so respectable, that he did not even attempt to shoulder his way past Mayella, desperate as he was to escape from his awful dilemma. These are various instances which give us a clear view about what sort of a person tom was. We can say that he was a man with a lot of ethics, respect and never crossed his lines.
Even though all the evidences only supported the fact that tom was innocent, the jury and the court still ended up convicting him only because he was black. This decision of the jury to convict tom was a foregone conclusion in the light of the atmosphere and behavior of the town towards the whole fiasco.
It shows how some tribal beliefs such as racism can be so powerful that they dominate a domain which is supposed to be so full of logic, reasoning and factual reasoning such as a jury making its decision based on these prejudices and beliefs which lack any reasoning at all. The jury members were all white and even though they personally knew that tom was innocent and guiltless, they still decide to make a judgment in favor of the white girl just because of their races.
Atticus is quit shaken with the courts judgment. He was shaken not as a lawyer who just lost the case but as a person whose strong beliefs were shattered by the ignorance of the society. He always believed that a court is a place where there is no importance for race, skin colour or social status. He thought that it’s a place where the blind justice reigns.
This time however, his faith is crashed and tells Jem that life isn’t fair at all and there is something in people that doesn’t allow them to look at the others unbiased. They might be really good-hearted people, they may try really hard to be honest, but there are some prejudices installed in each on of them which they cannot overcome. Atticus badly wants to believe that if people aren’t able to break free from these prejudices or strict mind frames that they have, they at least will leave it behind the doors of the courtroom.
“There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads they couldn’t be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it’s a white man’s world against a clack mans, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts. ….” (Lee, 1960). “The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is a courtroom, be he any colour or the rainbow, but people have ways of carrying their resentments right into a jury box.”(Lee, 1960)