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

How is the theme of prejudice explored in Harper Lee's 'To kill a mockingbird?'

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

How is the theme of prejudice explored in Harper Lee's 'To kill a mockingbird?' Prejudice is the most prominent theme in 'To kill a mockingbrid', and it occurs in many different forms throughout the novel. In this essay, I am going to disscuss how the theme of prejudice is explored in the novel, what forms this prejudice takes, and how the prejudice is related through the eyes of Scout. When reading 'To kill a mockingbord' it is important to realize that, although the story is fictional, the vicious racial prejudice in the novel is inspired by actual events that occured in the southern states of America, during the 1930's. In fact, the trial of Tom Robinson was based on the 'Scottsboro trials' of 1931, where nine black males were charged with raping two white girls. Much like the fictional trial of Tom Robinson, hordes of white villagers gathered to watch the fate of the boys, who, all except one, were given death sentences by the all white jury. All the boys eventually escaped state execution, but the event was typical of its time. This discrimination stems from the American civil war of 1861, which itself was brought about by the more civilised Northern states objection to the Southern states use of black people as slaves. ...read more.

Middle

Jem recognises this class structure when he tells Scout that there are 'four kinds of folks in the world'. These are: - The Finches and their neighbours (the white middle class) -The Cunnighams (the farming community) -The Ewells (the lowest class of white) -The Blacks (automatically the lowest group in society) While they are not persecuted as heavily as the lower groups in the social hiearchy of Maycomb, women were still viewed as unequal to men at the time the novel is set. Scout learns about women's position in society from many different sources throughout the novel, such as Miss Maudie when she explains to Scout that foot-washing Baptists 'think women are a sin by definition', Atticus when he explains to Scout that, in Alabama, women are not allowed to sit on juries, and Aunt Alexandra's constant pressure on Scout to become more like a 'Southern belle' (which is Maycomb's idealistic view of how a woman should be), a point Scout eventually begins to concede. Because of this idealised view of women, the men of Maycomb were supposed to show chivalry and respect to women, which is why rape is treated with such severity in Maycomb. This chivalry is also one of the reasons why Mayella Ewells' story was believed over Tom's. ...read more.

Conclusion

to the children), innocence (Tom of the crime of rape, Boo of his supposed evil persona), and both are imprisoned (Tom is imprisioned in jail, Boo is imprisoned in his house, to protect him from prejudice). Scout does not make the comparison between Tom, Boo, and a mockingbird until the end of the novel, when she comments that the public exposure of Boo Radley would be 'sort of like shootin' a mockingbird'. In 'To kill a mockingbird' Harper Lee challenges prejudice by showing how the central character (Scout) is changed by applying Atticus' maxim of seeing things from another persons perspective to her own life. When the novel begins, Scout and the children are pestering and mocking Boo Radley, with little regard for Boo's feelings. At the end of the novel scout begins to understand Boo, and why he lives his life the way he does. Harper Lee also challenges the accepted cultural stereotype of the black people, which was that they are evil or stupid and childlike, by portraying the characters of Tom Robinson and Calpurnia as normal people, with the same depth of emotions as white people. However, Harper Lee does not suggest that there is a quick soulution to prejudice, as Miss Maudie says in the book, 'baby steps' must be taken, before you can cure the world of prejudice. ...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. Marked by a teacher

    Discuss Harper Lee's portrayal of the black community in To Kill A Mockingbird

    5 star(s)

    They show their kindness by letting Jem and Scout sit in the balcony for black people in the courtroom, when any white person would have thrown a black person out of the white's area.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Examine the nature of prejudice in 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. Are there any signs ...

    4 star(s)

    If Tom had been white, and a higher class than Bob Ewell, Atticus would surely have won his case. This evidently shows the enormous amount of prejudices held by most of the townsfolk, virtually living in a 'cast' social system.

  1. To Kill A Mockingbird Essay on Prejudice

    of prejudice and that the residents have begun to understand the wrongfulness of prejudice. This is a sign to the reader that more characters are eventually going to switch over to the good side and that is exactly what happens.

  2. To Kill A Mockingbird Imagery and Symbolism

    - ie innocents who have been destroyed through contact with evil while miss Maudie represents the concept of the novel when she declares "Mockingbirds don't do one thing but . . . sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

  1. In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee, the theme of ...

    Lastly, the theme of coming of age is shown when Scout learns to understand people. Scout's father Atticus explains to Scout that one does not truly understand a person "until [one] climbs into his skin and [walks] around in it."

  2. Throughout To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee explores the different forms of prejudice present ...

    The stereotypical positions of men and women in society have been broken down to such an extent that we even have a female prime minister now. Scout would fit quite comfortably into 2008, where women can serve on juries and are definitely not expected to wear dresses all day.

  1. Why does Harper Lee choose to tell the story from scouts viewpoint?

    In my opinion by Choosing to tell the story from a child's point of view, it was easier to read between the lines and find the real meaning of what was being said. This was because if Scout didn't understand she could ask someone whereas if the story had been narrated by an adult this would not have been possible.

  2. To kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee uses the mockingbird theme with both ...

    The doors of the Radley house were closed on weekdays as well as Sundays, and Arthur was not seen again for fifteen years. I think this was a sign of his parents trying to hide their shame by shutting themselves away.

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