Fear in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Fear is an important force in the novel because it is the cause of
most people's action. The main theme in the book is a result of fear
such as the Tom Robinson case and Boo Radley. Ignorance breeds fear
which in turn breeds prejudice. Fear is infectious, and each character
in the book is affected by other people's fear. Hence, the people in
Southern town are always afraid.
Lee is able to explore fear in the novel most effectively by seeing
how individual characters are affected by it. In Particular, Mayella
Ewell is influenced and manipulated a lot which is shown by the fact
she accuses Tom. The underlying reason for the Tom Robinson case going
to trial is that Mayella Ewell is afraid of being
"hounded from [their] midst as being unfit to live with." Mayella is
forced to put an innocent man in prison because she wants to put the "
evidence of her crime away form her" and save herself from another
punishment. She has reason to be afraid, as Atticus implies she was "
savagely beaten" by Bob Ewell. Therefore not only does she fear being
driven out of society but also fears physical abuse.
Her fear is passed on to her by her father, Bob Ewell, who sees
himself to be a "respectable white man." He signs the warrant because
he fears that he might lose the respect of the community if they were
to find out that his daughter had " kissed a black man." He also fears
to lose his reputation and so he takes out his anger on his daughter
by abusing her. This anger is a result of his prejudice. He was angry
with his daughter for kissing a black man because he "hates and
despises coloured-folks." This hatred is born from living close to
them and his ego constantly makes him appear higher than the black
community. He fears that the race barriers will be broken down and
people will see him as the " trash " at the bottom of the pile. It is
fear beneath his anger and prejudice that makes him behave the way he
does. Lee shows that people deal with fear in different ways.
The jury at Tom's trial is not courageous enough as they are unable to
do the right thing because they fear they would probably be lynched or
cast out of society. They are afraid of being at odds from the
community because it would not accept it and hence may be targeted
just as Bob Ewell held a grudge and swore to get " revenge" on
Atticus. Atticus is an example of the danger one could be in for being
different. He is in danger of being lynched and threatened by Bob
Ewell, and his children are attacked because he stands up for what he
believes in. This is why the jury is not able to acquit Tom in spite
of knowing he is innocent because they are afraid of being in direct
conflict with the people of Maycomb. Furthermore, they are prejudiced
against Black people, which in effect means...