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A Study of Prejudice in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ By Harper Lee

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Introduction

A Study of Prejudice in 'To Kill A Mockingbird' By Harper Lee There is a variety of prejudice in the novel, however it all stems back to the mockingbird motif. Chapter ten is the first mention of the mockingbird. Atticus tells the children 'it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.' Atticus is aware the children will shoot birds with their new air rifles, although he would rather they didn't. He instructs them not to kill mockingbirds because they are symbols of innocence and harmlessness. They are symbols of innocence and harmlessness, just as Tom Robinson was, when he was shot. The mockingbird also symbolises a world, which is free from fear or evil, just like the world in which Tom Robinson and Boo Radley sought to live in. The reference to mockingbirds in chapter twenty-four focuses our attention on Tom Robinson as the central 'mockingbird' figure. Tom is presented as an innocent, good character. Not only does he not do any harm, he demonstrates positive virtues of kindness, compassion, and generosity. Tom's life and actions are a natural, spontaneous expression of his humanity and decency just as the mockingbird sings its heart out naturally. As people thoughtlessly slaughtered Tom, they too slaughtered the mockingbird. ...read more.

Middle

His tone there was a contrast to the relaxed way he began his speech and the intensity in which he built up at the end. When Heck Tate was called to stand, he mentioned some very significant things, which proved Tom was innocent, and that the jury were extremely racist. He claimed to have found Mayella Ewell 'lying on the floor,' with a black right eye. 'She was bunged up on that side of her face...' she also had finger marks all around her throat. Tom couldn't have raped her, because his left arm is 'withered.' Harper lee created a dramatic effect by revealing his arm at that moment. Atticus's deeply held belief is that 'all men are created equal.' He believes that this is undeniably true in the court of law. The operation of law, doesn't always lead to justice being done. As long as people are swayed and conditioned by prejudice, they will come to unjust decisions and verdicts. This was shown when Tom's verdict was announced. There is a Caste system in Maycomb. The Ewells are seen as 'trash' and are the lowest of the low. ...read more.

Conclusion

The children came to understand Boo Radley. An understanding that was most touchingly conveyed at the end of the novel, when Scout literally stood in the position from which Boo had watched them, and saw events as he would have seen them. They learnt the truth about Dolphus Raymond and understood why he maintained his pretence of being a drunkard. The idea of standing in another person's shoes helped them to understand why the lynch mob turned away when Scout spoke to Mr. Cunningham, and why Bob Ewell wanted revenge. Understanding other people was linked with the books main image of the mockingbird. Tom Robinson and Boo Radley were seen as mockingbird figures. They did no harm, but were persecuted and damaged by ignorance and prejudice. Harper Lee's attack on prejudice runs throughout the novel. Part of her technique is to lead us to respect the black community. An additional part of her technique is to lead people away from their prejudice views by allowing them to step into another person's shoes before judging them. No matter how inferior the person or people are, she tries her hardest to bring out the fact that everyone is equal. The legal system should have been better in the 1930's but what moreover the hearts and minds of everyone needed to be changed first. ...read more.

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