Mockingbird Essay

1265 words - 5 pages


The prejudice seen in the fictional novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee corresponds with the narrow-mindedness of many people during this time period. Due to this prejudice, a fair trial would be unlikely between a white and a black man. In the novel, Tom Robinson was presumed guilty because of his race and did not receive a fair trial because the jury had formed adverse opinions of him prior to the presentation of any evidence.

Prejudice is “an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge” (Prejudice); according to Lystra Moore Richardson of Yale University: “prejudice… was part of the very fiber of Southern life [during the Great Depression].” With these two pieces of information, it is derived that people formed judgments and opinions of a person without just grounds; most commonly, they based them on race. It is because of prejudice that a black man could not receive a fair trial in the South during the Great Depression. Many people had preconceived judgments of Negroes before ever getting to know them. They assumed that all Negroes were evil-natured and had the worst of intentions in mind. Many judges, and most juries, exhibited this form of prejudice in the courtroom.

The Scottsboro Trials held in Jackson County, Alabama were an excellent example of prejudice. During the Scottsboro trials, the prejudice of a judge is shown when Judge Hawkins “pronounce[d] the death sentence on [all] eight who had been tried” (Ransdell). He continued to show prejudice by setting the execution date for “the earliest date he was permitted to name under the law” (Ransdell). It can be assumed that if the convicted felons had been white, the penalty may have been lessened or possibly be delayed longer than the minimum time allowed before execution. But because this was a display of prejudice, the judge was as harsh on the African-American convicts as he was legally allowed to be.

The jury also showed signs of prejudice in the Scottsboro case. All twelve of the jurymen concluded a guilty verdict for the first trial – despite even medical evidence: “it was [Jack Tiller’s] semen … that was found in [Victoria Price’s] vagina” and not that of any of the alleged black boys (Linder). The reasons the jury had for its verdict were formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge – going back to the definition of prejudice stated in paragraph two. The jury had its decision made before the case ever made it into the courtroom. The jury consisted of all white men – but it is not to say that a jury of all black men would have been any fairer. The prejudice during the Great Depression did not only come from the whites, many blacks also felt hate for the white men. The prejudice of white men towards black men can be seen in To Kill a Mockingbird, especially during the trial between Mr. Ewell and Tom Robinson over the alleged rape of his daughter Mayella.

In To Kill a...

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