Foils In To Kill A Mockingbird

2068 words - 8 pages

(Whether we read about different people in literature to broaden our knowledge about others, or whether we do it as an interest, we cannot overlook the use of foils in stories. While many people can be similar to each other, others can be complete opposites. One character may do something virtuous, while the other may do something heinous; this in turn makes the virtuous character seem exceedingly better than the other character.) (In literature, many writers use foils to highlight one’s true nature and make it more noticeable; when characters are compared side by side, one character is always superior to the other. In the classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee undoubtedly uses pairs of characters to emphasize and demonstrate the themes of prejudice, racism and inequality of characters.)(This writing technique is especially evident with the characters: Atticus and Mr. Gilmer; Miss Maudie Atkinson and Miss Stephanie Crawford; and, finally, Walter Cunningham Sr. and Bob Ewell.)
(Foils are a very useful technique in writing which are used to show how characters can be compared and contrasted to each another. The following characters have some similarities within their background, however they each have a different perception and behaviour towards the same people. Atticus Finch and Mr. Gilmer are clear examples of this because when compared side by side, one character always comes out on top in the end, this makes one character look superior to the other) (Atticus and Mr. Gilmer are both highly educated men; they went to law school and are also both white, however many of the major differences are displayed within the trial of Tom Robinson. Atticus is defending Tom Robinson while Mr. Gilmer is trying to prove him guilty. When Atticus gets the opportunity to question Tom Robinson, he asks the following questions:
“Tom did you rape Mayella Ewell?”
“I did not, suh”
“Did you harm her in any way?”
“I did not, suh”
“Did you resist her advances?”
“Mr. Finch, I tried…” (Lee 194).
Within this dialogue, Atticus calls him by his first name, Tom. He speaks to him in a very similar manner to the way he addresses Mayella. This shows how much he respects him; he is non-judgemental because he does not jump to any conclusions due to fact-based questions. Atticus is polite to Tom, and does not treat him differently even though he is of a different race. However, Mr. Gilmer treats Tom Robinson in a very different manner. Mr. Gilmer’s clear difference in tone is set from the beginning of the questioning:
“Robinson, you’re pretty good at busting up a chiffarobes and kindling with one hand aren’t you?”
“Yes, suh, I reckon so”
“Strong enough to choke the breath out of a woman and sling her to the floor” (Lee 196).
Mr. Gilmer addresses Tom by his last name automatically sending the message of disrespect. Mr. Gilmer also says to him “But you weren’t in a fix--- you testified that you were resisting Miss Ewell. Were you so scared that she’d hurt you, you...

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