• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How does Harper Lee use language and symbolism to represent the prejudice and narrow-mindedness of common citizens in Maycomb County?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

How does Harper Lee use language and symbolism to represent the prejudice and narrow-mindedness of common citizens in Maycomb County? Harper Lee utilises language and symbolism extensively in her first and final book, To Kill a Mockingbird. Throughout the novel there are numerous accounts of racism and prejudice. The novel is set in a small, fictional town in the 'Deep South' of America called Maycomb in the 1930's, a time when prejudice and discrimination was very prevalent in society. Although bigotry and segregation were pointed in majority towards blacks, other accounts towards whites were also heard of, though not as commonly. During the course of the novel, there are acts that are so discreet that you almost don't catch them, but along with those, there are blatant acts of bigotry that would never occur in our time. Lee addresses many of these feelings in her novel. Through Lee's clever use of the symbol of the mockingbird, prejudice and narrow-mindedness of society can be seen directed at two major characters; Tom Robinson and Boo Radley. The mockingbird is used to symbolise loss of innocence. At first glance, Tom and Boo seem very different: one lives with his wife and children among friends, the other lives in isolation with his brother. One has his fellow churchgoers take up a collection on his behalf, while the other has no one think much about him except some curious kids. ...read more.

Middle

Nobody sees what happens in the scuffle but at the end of it, Ewell is dead and Boo is carrying an unconscious Jem to the Finch house. Scout later implies by saying that if she told people that Boo killed Mr Ewell, it would be like shooting a mockingbird: "Atticus looked like he needed cheering up. I ran to him and hugged him with all my might. "Yes sir, I understand," I reassured him. "Mr Tate was right" Atticus disengaged himself and looked at me. "What do you mean?" "Well it'd be sort of like shootin' a mockingbird, wouldn't it?" The snowman that Jem and Scout made in front of Miss Maudie Atkinson's house one winter was another important example of symbolism used to show the prejudice and narrow-mindedness of society in Maycomb. There was not enough snow for the snowman so Jem used dirt for the foundation and then covered it with the snow that they did have. The snowman is symbolic in that Jem is trying to cover up the black man and show that he is the same as the white man. This implies the author's personal opinion about racism. It suggests Lee's belief that all humans, black or white, are equal. In contrast, the fire in Miss Maudie's house shows the prejudice of Maycomb. ...read more.

Conclusion

"Don't say nigger, Scout. That's common." Harper Lee skilfully applies this to show how far ahead Atticus was at this time. He knew that the word nigger was offensive to the blacks at this time. He showed the respect and common courtesy which was very rare of an affluent white male. Most of the blacks lived in the bad part of town, or the "slums." Even if they had the money, they wouldn't have been able to live in an upper class neighbourhood like the Finches. Blacks were considered dirty and unsanitary therefore, people didn't want them next to their houses. They feared that it would bring down their real estate value along with their reputations. Prejudice showed its face many times in To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some of those instances it showed itself being overcome. From prejudice caused by isolation against Boo Radley to racial prejudice against Tom Robinson, the book has displayed every aspect of how people can look through the window and see things completely narrow-minded. From the book, it can be perceived that Lee is referring to the progression of the USA, in a time where many civil rights movements were going on in America (the book was published in 1960). However still in our society today, in the year 2011, prejudice and narrow-mindedness can be seen everywhere we go and it will be a matter of time until this fades away. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Harper Lee section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Harper Lee essays

  1. Peer reviewed

    Examine the different kinds of prejudice and injustice which you have found in 'To ...

    4 star(s)

    They centre on Mr Arthur Radley, or Boo, the youngest son. Boo was arrested when he was a teenager and has been confined to the house ever since. What only helps to make the children more curious is the fact that they have never laid eyes on him.

  2. How does Harper Lee make use of the trial of Tom Robinson to explore ...

    Atticus tries to undo the damage caused by Tom's mistake in his summing up but it is probably this statement that affects his case most severely. The advantage of using a court case to highlight attitudes is that the legal process requires everything to be as explicit as possible.

  1. According to Atticus Finch, one of the main characters in To Kill A Mockingbird, ...

    Dill saw it next. He put his hands to his face. When it crossed Jem, Jem saw it. He put his arms over his head and went ridged." Page 53 Analysis: In this passage the reader has every reason to believe that this shadow that the children were seeing was the shadow of Boo Radly.

  2. To Kill A Mockingbird Imagery and Symbolism

    defended the Jews in the lesson at school, but then in her own town, she is very prejudiced. This is because when Scout follows her down the steps after the court hearing, she says harshly they had all that was coming to them; "Well coming out of the court house ...

  1. How effectively does Harper Lee convey her ideas about prejudice in her novel To ...

    Another one is pg.. 249 'I mean in Maycomb County. The thing about it is, our kind of folks don't like the Cunninghams, the Cunninghams don't like the Ewells, and the Ewells hate and despise the coloured folks.' This shows clear dislike for the assumed lower class; however, unfairly coloured

  2. Role of Mrs Dubose

    Mrs Dubose brought out the best in Scout and Atticus. In Scout's case, the Mrs Dubose episode brought out her loyalty to Jem. Atticus said to Scout when she accompanied Jem to Mrs Dubose's house, 'You don't have to go with Jem you know.'

  1. How does Harper Lee illustrate the racist attitudes prevalent in Maycomb County in the ...

    By "them" she is referring to Calpurnia. Her use of this word suggests she feels Negroes should not be included in the family; she may even be suspicious of them. The word implies she has no respect for the black community as she cannot bring herself to say the word "negroes" as Atticus does.

  2. The Class and Caste of Maycomb County

    Dolphus Raymond was the town scandal, always "drinkin' out of a sack" (160). He lived a scandalous life, "way down near the county line" where he resided with a "colored woman and all sorts of mixed chillun" (161-62). It was the opinion of the townspeople that these children must be

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work