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To kill a mocking bird - How important is the trial in dealing with the theme of Prejudice.

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Introduction

How important is the trial in dealing with the theme of Prejudice Maycomb is a town riddled with prejudices and stereotypes and the trial of Tom Robinson shows and makes clear those prejudices to us. Firstly, during the trial, Jem, Scout and Dill sit upon the balcony with the blacks. This is significant because in the court there is a great sense of segregation and we can see the children's innocence because they don't have the same view of the blacks as the rest of the community - they don't have any prejudices at all. On the other hand, Bob Ewell is a prime example of 'White Trash'. He has a seething hatred for the Negroes and even though he is neither morally better nor more respectable than Tom Robinson, he is seen by the community as superior simply because he is a white man and, in their eyes, whites are better than blacks. When Scout says that the only thing that makes Bob Ewell better than Tom Robinson is the fact that if his skin were rubbed he would be a white man beneath, it shows that a black man doesn't have a chance against a white man's word. Mayella, however, even though she is the daughter of Bob Ewell, doesn't adopt the same prejudices as her father and even though she lives around the town dump, she still makes an effort to better herself and make herself more civilised. ...read more.

Middle

He has values that Bob doesn't conform to and is a sharp contrast to the Ewells. He walks past the Ewell place and more often than not, he sees Mayella struggling to do her daily chores and all Tom wants to do is give her a helping hand. He doesn't want anything in return and he does these favours with certainly no intention of raping her. When Mr. Gilmer questioned Tom about why he felt so inclined to do jobs for Mayella, he replies, 'I felt right sorry for her, she seemed to try more'n rest of 'em'. This statement shocks the crowd and Mr. Gilmer because if you feel sorry for someone, you are implying that you are superior to that person, and with Tom being a black man; according to the community, he is not allowed to possess these feelings as blacks are inferior to whites in all circumstances. Also, when his testimony contradicts that of what Mayella said, Tom is indirectly accusing her of lying. Mr. Gilmer questions him about his side of things but Tom just can't bring himself to say that Mayella is a liar; instead he says that she is 'mistaken in her mind'. This shows that if a white person's word is up against a black's, a suggestion that the white person is lying is unacceptable in this bigoted community. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, Atticus' defence of Tom Robinson was not in vain, and the very fact that Atticus kept the jury out for such a prolonged amount of time, Miss Maudie says is a 'baby-step', and she means that Atticus is getting at the jury's conscience. He is appealing to their better, non-prejudice side and opening their eyes to a new view of blacks. Atticus also makes a similar comment about the length of the jury's absence, he says, 'That was the one think that made me think, well, this maybe the shadow of a beginning'. By saying this he means that it isn't a big advance, but it is still one step closer to an integrated community, free of prejudices and rigid stereotypes. Mr Cunningham was the man on the jury who was willing to cast aside his prejudices, in light of his experience at the jailhouse, and challenge the jury's almost certainly immediate verdict of guilty. Although he was eventually persuaded to unite with the others in their guilty verdict, he still made them think. There is no doubt that the staging of this trial has certainly made a lot of people stop and question their prejudices in Maycomb and whether they are valid views of the black community. But the sectarian opinions of whites towards blacks aren't going to be relinquished overnight and it will be a slow process and as Atticus says, the trial may only be 'the shadow of a beginning'. ...read more.

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