Harper Lee's 1960's novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a story of racism, class and justice
"To Kill a Mockingbird" is a novel about misfits
Harper Lee's 1960's novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a story of racism, class and injustice. Set in the small country town of Maycomb in the heart of Alabama, Jean Louise "Scout" Finch reflects on her childhood and the characters surrounding it. Maycomb, like any community had its share of misfits, African Americans (who were highly ostracized at the time), white trash and the poor were among those at the bottom of society's hierarchy. However, there are also less obvious characters who did not fit into the conventional norms of Maycomb's society. My essay will address why I believe "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a novel about misfits. I will explore different characters and how they differed from the general population of Maycomb.
As a result of an overwhelming history of prejudice and ignorance, African Americans were treated as the lowest form of human existence in most 1930's deep South American towns,. "…Cry about the hell white people give colored folks, without stopping to think their people too." (pg 222) African Americans were brought to America as a dispensable workforce, so even decades after their emancipation they were still treated as the ultimate misfits of society. In "To Kill a Mockingbird" most of the African Americans worked in the cotton fields or as maids, gardeners etc. for the white population. They lived in a certain area of town and kept to themselves, they had their own church, and community. "First Purchase African M.E. Church was in the Quarters… it was an ancient paint-peeled frame building…called First Purchase because it was paid for from the first earnings of freed slaves." (pg 130) Negroes were misfits in Maycomb's hierarchy. This becomes very obvious when Tom Robinson is introduced to the reader. Tom Robinson is accused of raping Mayella Ewell (daughter of a notorious family), and even though the circumstances are far from evident, everyone assumes Tom is guilty. "Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don't pretend to understand." (pg. 98) This is simply because he is black. Tom is put on trial, and it eventually comes down to his word against a white mans word. The jury (entirely Caucasians) decides his word isn't good enough, and Tom is imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit. "The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any colour of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box." (pg. 243) Eventually, Tom becomes desperate and sees no way out other than to attempt to escape from the prison walls, during his escape guards shoot and kill him. 'There's a...