The Complex Themes In Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird

923 words - 4 pages

The award winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, may appear to be a simple story about childhood and life in a Southern town in Alabama, but it is really a complex novel dealing with themes of education, moral courage, and tolerance. Through the eyes of Scout Finch, the narrator, Harper Lee teaches the reader about the importance of a moral education, bravery and courage, and prejudice vs. tolerance.
The first theme Harper Lee exhibits in her novel is education. In the beginning of the novel, Scout accompanies her brother Jem to school. She has been looking forward to going to school since she was very young. Her first day was a disappointment when Jem tells Scout that they cannot play with each other at recess, and when Scout gets into trouble for educating her teacher about another student, Walter Cunningham. Walter Cunningham belongs to a family that doesn’t take others’ money for their benefit. Scout’s worst disappointment is when her teacher, Miss Caroline, tells Scout that Atticus had been teaching her to read the wrong way. Instead of rewarding Scout for her intelligence, she is forced to be ashamed. Scout tells her father that she will not go back to school, but he compromises with her and tells her if she goes to school, they will continue reading just as they always have. The good education Scout receives from Atticus is unlike anything she will ever learn at school.
In addition to the theme of education, Lee explores the idea of bravery and courage. Scout, Jem, and their friend Dill tend to define bravery by the risks people are willing to take and accepting a dare is the truest test of one's bravery. Jem accepts the challenge to touch the dangerous, Arthur “Boo” Radley’s front door. Jem also views bravery by how experienced one is with a gun. When Atticus shoots the rabid dog, Jem earns a new-found respect for Atticus. Their opinion of bravery changes during the Tom Robinson trial, nearing the second half of the novel. Tom Robinson is an African American who is a hard worker and a man with a very good heart. However, he has been accused of attempted rape by a white female, Mayella Ewell. In the setting of this book there is a great deal of racism; he can't possibly receive a trial in his favor when the jury is made up of white men who work under the racist assumption that all black men are not to be trusted and that all black men are after women. Despite the negative effects he is sure to suffer (and does), Atticus agrees to take the case...

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