Prejudice Runs Deep in To Kill A Mockingbird
To Kill A Mockingbird takes place in small town Maycomb, Alabama, a depression era town where people move slowly and twenty-four hours seems longer. The narrator of the story is a six-year-old girl named Jean Louise Finch, a tomboy who hates wearing dresses and goes by the nickname "Scout." Scout's being a tomboy is of no little significance because while we are treated to a sweet and affectionate portrayal of Maycomb at the novel's opening, we will find it is a town where racial prejudice, hostility and ignorance run deep below the surface. Not only are the majority of the townspeople prejudiced against blacks, maintaining a feeling of superiority to the whole of their race, but there are also well-defined social roles based on gender.
To Kill A Mockingbird reflects many themes, but three of the most significant ones are courage, prejudice, and education. Through characterization and behavior the author demonstrates the connection of these themes as crucial for manifesting real humanity within individuals. Education and courage produce a higher level of humanity in human behavior, particularly because they allow individuals to walk in the skins of other people before judging them. Education and courage allow for a neutralization of prejudice because they lend a broader understanding to the individual concerning others. Atticus, the father of Scout and Jem (Jeremy Finch), often teaches the lessons of education and courage to his children. Atticus' brand of courage and education is different than that of most people's in the town. Atticus' brand of courage disdains the use of guns, as we see when he refuses to use one to protect Tom Robinson (a black man accused of raping a white woman). Atticus is determined his children understand real courage and bravery, and he uses every chance he gets to further their education. He reads to them and discusses issues with them as if they were adults who could understand from the time they are infants. However, Atticus knows he lives in a community and era when so many people lack education and remain intolerant to others that an innocent black man can be murdered on merely the testimony of a white man whose own character is untrustworthy. We see this best dramatized when Atticus gives his closing arguments while defending Tom "The witnesses for the state...have presented themselves to you gentlemen...in the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted, confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the...evil assumption...that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women, an assumption one associates with minds of their caliber" (Lee, 1960, 207).
Scout is a symbol of opposing prejudice and ignorance. She is a tomboy who hates wearing dresses and beats up friends who offend her. She spends most of her time reading with her father...