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How Themes Affect The Characters In Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird

1094 words - 5 pages

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is a novel by Harper Lee in which she describes life of a small community in a tiny Southern town around the time of the Great Depression. This novel highlights the many problems and good things about society in that time period, and these characteristics are shown through the actions of the characters of this community that Lee has made. There are themes that can be made to represent these ideas, and three major ones that are notable and exemplary would be racism, innocence, and bravery. These themes are noteworthy because they greatly affect characters in the novel and there are many things that are brought to light about ideas revolving around them. At times, what seems to be one thing related to a theme might change through a character’s actions, which might change the meaning of that theme from the reader’s perspective. Essentially, these three themes can tell much of what goes on, why it goes on, and how.
Racism is something that has always plagued the South, and the small county of Maycomb that Lee has created is no different. One of the major forms of racism that is revealed during the course of events in the novel is when a young black man named Tom Robinson is accused of raping a white girl on account of the girl’s father, in other words this is an example of whites vs. blacks in law. Tom Robinson was disadvantaged in the case, even though in his testimony, he said how Mayella “says she never kisses a grown man before an’ she might as well kiss a nigger” (260). Even so, Tom just “breaks into a blind raving charge at the fence and starts climbing over” (315). This is when he is jailed for his supposed “crime”, and the prison guards end up shooting him to death, with precisely “seventeen bullet holes in him” (315). Atticus (Jem and Scout’s father) feels that the reason that Tom took such a dangerous chance was because “Tom was tired of white men’s chances and preferred to take his own” (315). In other words, Tom felt that he couldn’t rely upon white men to decide his fate, and that it would be more reliable to take a chance. However, it resulted in his death. Based on one of the pieces of evidence given by Tom, in which he says that Mayella wanted to kiss him, it can be said that there was also a feeling of “white supremacy” involved. Why would the citizens of Maycomb, such as those on jury, prefer to believe that a black man raped a white girl, rather than the fact that a white girl was seducing a black man? Based on the way that people felt about relationships between blacks and whites (e.g. when Dolphus Raymond tells Scout and co. about because of his marriage with a black woman and him being white, people “...could never, never understand that I live like I do because that’s the way I want to live” (268).), it can be said that people simply felt that it would be better to support their own race rather than another even if they were wrong. Since the residents of Maycomb County had trouble accepting anything...

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