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What does To Kill A Mockingbird reveal to us about race relations in the Southern States of America during the 1930s?

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Introduction

What does To Kill A Mockingbird reveal to us about race relations in the Southern States of America during the 1930s? Introduction: The story is set in the mid-1930s in Maycomb, a small, isolated inward-looking town in Alabama, USA. The narrator is Scout Finch, who looks back to when she was a young girl living with her brother Jem and their father Atticus, a lawyer. Their household is looked after by Calpurnia, a stern but king Negro women, because the children's mother died when they were very young. At Scout's first day at school we meet some of the children of the long established local families, like the Cunningham's and the Ewell's. Scout and Jem, together with the new friend Dill, try to get a mysterious neighbour who has not been seen for fifteen years - Boo Radley - to come out of his house. Atticus disapproves of their activities, because he is trying to bring up his children up to be tolerant and he thinks they are pestering Boo. Although Boo has a frightening reputation amongst the local children, he leaves Scout and Jem presents hidden in a hole in a tree outside his house. During a cold winter night, a fire burns down their neighbour's home and, unknown to Scout, Boo puts a blanket round her shoulders to keep her warm. Atticus is to defend Tom Robison, a Negro man accused of raping a whit woman. ...read more.

Middle

They can say that a Cunningham can always be trusted or a Ewell is always dishonest. This leads to social division: every family is categorised on a particular scale and it is important to mix with the 'right' family. Aunt Alexandra is particularly prone to this kind of snobbery. She tries to prevent the children playing with the Cunninghams because they lack 'background'. Atticus is against this kind of social classification, preferring to judge a person on individual merit. The Cunninghams are a family of very poor farmers who live in Old Sarum in the north of the county. Their roles in the book are varied but significant: they act mainly as a contrast to the Ewell family. The Cunninghams never borrow what they cannot return and they pay their bills promptly, even if they have to pay in vegetables rather than money. They are quite independent of the State. The Cunninghams' son, Walter, is poorly educated and has bad manners but Scout eventually recognises (unlike her aunt) that these things are not important. Walter is essentially a good child, whose circumstances have prevented him from learning to behave any differently. It is thanks to a Cunningham that the lynch mob disperses at the jail. Scout recognises Mr Cunningham and by talking to him about family matters, she makes him think like an individual again and not like a member of a mob. ...read more.

Conclusion

The only representative of black prejudice is Lula, but the church congregation controls her behaviour and makes her outburst ineffective. The blacks resent Tom's conviction but as they have been second-class citizens from birth, they seem to expect it. The image of the mockingbird occurs frequently in the book. The children are warned that it is a sin to kill this bird because all it does is sing. The mockingbird has no original song of its own, but merely copies the songs of other birds -hence its name. Both Tom Robinson and Boo Radley can be compared with this bird. They are both gentle people who have done no harm but only try to help others. Both their lives are distorted versions of what might have been 'normal', but for their individual circumstances and backgrounds. Like the mockingbird, Tom and Boo should be protected and cared for. Instead, they are hunted down by the mob, who are full of false courage, ignorance and shallow pride -like the children who shoot songbirds. Both Tom and Boo are persecuted, one by the jury and the other by the children and the gossips. The mockingbird symbol links to two important themes in the book: justice and childhood. Justice is 'killed' when the jury follow their own prejudices and ignore the true evidence. The innocence of childhood dies for Jem, Scout and Dill when they realise that the adult world is often a cruel and unjust place. Saeed Ahmed 11MDA Coursework 9th November 2003 ...read more.

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