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To Kill A Mockingbird, By Harper Lee

1537 words - 6 pages

Many view America as a land of opportunity, one that preaches freedom and has specific laws to ensure the equality of this pursuit of freedom. Despite the intention of promoting freedom and equality, many American laws transcend these values and mirror the true sentiments of our nation’s constituents. These laws cannot serve to uphold equality if that intention does not come to fruition in their practice and application to societal issues. In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Robinson, a black man in a mostly white community, faces accusations and a subsequent trial for the rape of Mayella Ewell, a white girl of the town. As the Southern setting of the novel implies, the racial aspect of this trial consumes the town of Maycomb, Alabama leading to escalating tensions and violence among those with opposing views. The racial components of this case evident outside and inside of the courtroom such as a communal bias, stereotypical arrest, layers language and predisposition of the jury force the reader to ponder the integrity of the Maycomb justice system and the ethnic stigmas that accompany it. However, these biases and racist hindrances of true justice are not unique to the 1930’s South. Tom Robinson’s treatment by the Maycomb justice system reflects a double standard and racial inequality prevalent in the entire American Justice system.
Manifestations of the collective racism of Maycomb during the trial of Tom Robinson demonstrate how cases in the American Justice system can fluctuate based on the sentiments of a particular region. Local individuals comprise a bulk of the provincial courts so it comes as no surprise that the popular regional sentiments factor into the verdicts of these courts. Although as a final domain for equal justice, courts often “represent the established power structure, resisted change and reflect the prejudices of the majority community” (Walker, Spohn and DeLone 135). In other words, if there exists a racial hierarchy within the community and there are stigmas attached to this organization, local court rulings tend to reflect these individual attitudes. Can there be any validity in a justice system that adopts local feelings and neglects the pursuit of equality and justice that the system supposedly stands for? In the case of Tom Robinson, Maycomb’s racist attitude plays a vital role in the trial itself as well as his ultimate conviction. Atticus, as Tom’s defense attorney and one of the sole supporters of his innocence states “[Mayella] was white, and she tempted a Negro…[s]he did something that in our society is unspeakable: she kissed a black man” (Lee 272). This claim points to what is wrong in Maycomb; people feel as if Negro’s are susceptible to a white temptress and assume that Mayella kissing Tom must be an indication of rape. It is unfathomable to the people of Maycomb that a white woman could be at all interested in physical engagement with an African American. To make matters worse for Tom, the town’s...

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