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The Extent To Kill A Mockingbird Critiques The Cultural Values Of Maycomb Society

3228 words - 13 pages

‘To kill a Mockingbird’ is a strong reflection of Harper Lee, the author’s, upbringing. Having been raised in the small town of Alabama in the 1920’s she was frequently exposed to prejudice and this inspired her to write a book, her only to date, loosely based on her early days. Tom Robinson’s trial, set in Maycomb County, is a parallel to the Scottsboro Trial, which was an infamous case during Lee’s childhood, where a ‘negro’ was accused of rape. However the emphasis is based more on the lawyer, Atticus Finch, who defends him, as the book is written from the perspective of his daughter, Jean Louise, known as ‘Scout’.
Throughout, an importance is placed on the fact that ‘it's a sin to kill a mockingbird’ as they only ‘sing their hearts out for us’ and ‘don't eat up people's gardens’. This is a comment on the fact that Maycomb society victimises Tom Robinson, despite the fact that he is harmless and only does good, just like the mockingbird. This symbolic meaning resulted in the title ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ rather than the initial name ‘Atticus’ as the publishers felt the book was not solely based on Atticus as a person. On the contrary, they felt the values of Maycomb society such as social division and status, racial prejudice, double standards, integrity and courage were the focuses of the book.
It is important to appreciate the advantages a child narrator brings to a novel of this kind, due to Scout’s innocence and youth she does not understand certain social infrastructures which complicate the adult world, thus exposing Maycomb in a way that an adult narrator could not. This allows Harper Lee to critique the values of Maycomb society in a more subtle manner, for example Scout does not judge people, but instead explains what she sees. Therefore, when Miss Stefany-Crawford gossips she condemns herself as we hear the horrible things she says directly, rather than being told the narrator’s opinion of her. Also, at one point Atticus suggests that ‘we need a police force of children’ as the book often emphasizes a child’s innate justice and subsequent ability to challenge the irrationality of adults. Dill Harris, Scout’s childhood ‘fiancé’ claims that as an adult he’s ‘gonna be a new kind of clown… (he’s) gonna stand in the middle of the ring and laugh at the folks.’ This is because, being a child, he has an unblemished view of society so he understands how illogical some people are and, in his case, want’s to humour them. Harper Lee takes advantage of this and allows Maycomb to ridicule itself by showing in a simplistic, child’s view, the wrong doings of the community.
Maycomb County is inward looking because it is an isolated community with ‘nothing to see outside the boundaries’ of its ‘old town’. As it’s also based on heritage, ‘it was a source of shame’ that the Finches ‘had no recorded ancestors’ because every family in Maycomb was typecast with a ‘streak’ according to its predecessors habits. To most of Maycomb ‘the longer a...

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