To Kill A Mockingbird Essay: Southern Tradition Exposed

1949 words - 8 pages

Southerners are known to be proud of their traditional beliefs. To Kill A Mockingbird allows its readers to question and consider those beliefs. Maycomb represents a typical old southern town. Not many people move into Maycomb and not many people who live there journey beyond its boundaries. As a result, the opinions held by many of the citizens of Maycomb are left to grow and foster in the same families for many generations. The circumstances in Maycomb are less than ideal for generating change and more prone to sustaining traditionally accepted codes. Two codes embedded within southern social beliefs are class and race.

The years of 1960 and 1961, when To Kill A Mockingbird was published, signaled a time of great change. The civil rights movement was in full swing and the country was undergoing social and economic reconstruction. Traditional thinking was being transformed into ideas and thoughts that had never been considered before, and old traditions were pitted against new ones. Looking into the Deep South, in a little town named Maycomb, tradition for most people meant prejudice, separation, and racism. Atticus Finch chooses to fight against this "old tradition" with traditions of his own. Because of his highly ethical character, Atticus is able to honorably defend Tom Robinson and promote a "new tradition" for himself and his children. Respect, dignity, and equality form the backbone of Atticus' belief system, a belief system containing qualities that are often overlooked in the traditional South. In the absence of outside support, Atticus fights his battle the only way he knows how -- with patience, perseverance, and honesty.

The South and tradition are synonymous. Southerners are known to be proud of their traditional beliefs. To Kill A Mockingbird serves as a piece of literature that allows its readers to question and consider those southern beliefs. Maycomb represents a typical old southern town. Not many people move into Maycomb and not many people who live there journey beyond its boundaries. As a result, the opinions held by many of the citizens of Maycomb are left to grow and foster in the same families for many generations. The circumstances in Maycomb are less than ideal for generating change and more prone to sustaining traditionally accepted codes. Two codes embedded within southern social beliefs are class and race.

 

Class and family history is an important part of tradition to many of the people in Maycomb. When Aunt Alexandra comes to visit, she feels it her duty to impress upon Scout the importance of her roots. Aunt Alexandra forces Atticus to explain to Scout that she is "not from run-of-the-mill people, [but] the product of several generations' gentle breeding"(p.133). Aunt Alexandra feels that people are born into a certain class, and should, therefore, behave accordingly. If you are born into a high class, you will always be considered high class, and if you are born into a low class, there...

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