Controversial Issues In "To Kill A Mockingbird", By Harper Lee, Racism, Discrimination And Social Class Are Explored

1178 words - 5 pages

In the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee addresses many controversial issues. Such issues as, racism, discrimination,and social class are explored. During the 1950's in the small county of Maycomb, the mentality of most southern peoplereflected that of the nation. Most of the people were racist and discriminatory. In the novel, these ideas are explored by ayoung girl, Scout. The readers see the events that occur through her eyes. In the book, Scout's father, Atticus, tells Scout andJem, '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 youcan hit'em, but remember its a sin to kill a mockingbird.' (pg. 69) The mockingbird is a symbol for two of the characters in thenovel: Tom Robinson and Boo Radley. The mockingbird symbolizes these two characters because it does not have its ownsong. Whereas, the blue jay is loud and obnoxious, the mockingbird only sings other birds' songs. Because the mockingbirddoes not sing its own song, we characterize it only by what the other birds sing. Hence, we see the mockingbird through theother birds. In the novel, the people of Maycomb only know Boo Radley and Tom Robinson by what others say about them.Both of these characters do not really have their own 'song' in a sense, and therefore, are characterized by other people'sviewpoints.Throughout the novel, Scout, Jem, and Dill are curious about the 'mysterious' Boo Radley because he never comes outside ofhis house or associates with anyone in the neighborhood. The children are, in fact, afraid of him because of all the stories theyhear about him from the people in Maycomb. For example, Miss Stephanie tells the children that while Boo was sitting in theliving room cutting a magazine, he 'drove the scissors into his parent's leg, pulled them out, wiped them on his pants, andresumed his activities.' (pg. 11) After hearing stories like these, the children consider him to be evil. Gradually they assumemore about Boo because he never plays outside or with anyone, and therefore, the children are not convinced otherwise. BooRadley becomes a game for the children; over the summers they act out 'Boo Radley scenarios' that they believed to be true.Over time they create new parts to the story: they even include Mrs. Radley into the story and portrays her as a poor woman,who after she married Mr. Radley, 'lost her teeth, her hair, and her right forefinger.' (pg. 39) These stories are based on thegossip that trail through their neighborhood. In realty, no one knew anything about Boo Radley; he stayed inside of his houseand remained reclusive in Maycomb county. At the end of the book, Scout finally meets Boo Radley after he helps her andJem escape Mr. Ewell. She finds that her beliefs about him are not true. Essentially, she finds the songs that the neighbors were'putting into his mouth' were not true. In the book, Boo Radley is a micro version of Tom Robinson. Boo is the outcast of theneighborhood, but at...

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