Theme Of Racial Prejudice In Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird

1717 words - 7 pages

How Does Harper Lee Develop the Theme of Racial Prejudice in the Novel “To Kill A Mockingbird”?

“To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is a novel set in the 1930s in a racially prejudice town called Maycomb County. A black man is accused of raping a white girl, and although it’s clear that he did not do it, the all white jury refuse to take a black man’s word over a white girl’s. Through the innocent eyes of an eight year old girl, the theme of racial prejudice is developed throughout the novel, although at times she is oblivious to it. In this essay I am going to discuss how Lee develops the theme of racial prejudice in the novel “To Kill A Mockingbird”.

From the start of the novel, the reader gets the impression that Maycomb County hasn’t changed its views for many years. In chapter one, the narrator makes the comment, “Maycomb’s ways: closed doors meant illness and cold weather only.” The word “ways” suggests that the town is quite rigid in their habits and “closed doors meant illness and cold weather” implies that their habits are old fashioned, as only allowing closed doors in certain circumstances is rather old fashioned thinking. In addition to the town having time-honoured habits, they are also very stuck in their ways when making accusations. For example, when people’s chickens and pets were found mutilated, the culprit Crazy Addie eventually drowned himself, but people “still looked at the Radley Place, unwilling to discard their initial suspicions.” This indicates that the town’s people are stubborn in their beliefs and refuse to acknowledge the truth if it’s not what they initially assumed. This would encourage discrimination against individuals.

Maycomb County’s beliefs are provoked by the social structure in which they live. Highlighted throughout the novel is how the blacks are immediately discarded as below the rest of the general public. This is demonstrated when Aunt Alexandra, who has the typical views of a white middle class person, refuses Scout to go to Calpurnia’s house purely because she is black. Later, Alexandra refuses Scout to allow Walter Cunningham to their house to play, as they are considered the poor farming class of whites. Seen as the lowest class of whites are the Ewells, as they are “white trash”, very poor and uneducated. On some levels, they are the most overtly racist. Constantly throughout the novel, Bob Ewell makes comments about blacks such as, “they’re dangerous to live around” and refers to them as “black niggers” rather than their names. The reason for this could be that they are the lowest class of whites and the only group of people seen as lower than them are the blacks. Because all whites treat the Ewells badly, they want someone to give the same treatment they receive, thus making the Ewells the most racially prejudiced characters. This is relevant as it is Bob Ewell that accuses Tom Robinson (a black man) of raping his daughter. At the trial Tom, referring to the daughter, makes the...

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