How Does the Writer Use the Trial of Tom Robinson to Bring Out the Themes and Issues in "To Kill a Mockingbird"?

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How Does the Writer Use the Trial of Tom Robinson to Bring Out the Themes and Issues in This Book?

During Tom Robinson's trial, many themes such as education and life lessons, growing up and innocence, prejudice and racism and courage are brought out.

The theme of education and life lessons is very important as the book revolves around Scout and Jem, and how they grow and mature over the course of the book. Throughout the period of the trial Jem and Scout learn a lot and their understanding of the situation in Maycomb develops. We can see Jem’s maturity from the phrase, “Mister-Jem,” because as you age you receive a higher status. Jem’s maturity continues to be shown with the line, “In addition to Jem’s newly developed characteristics, he had acquired a maddening air of wisdom,” we can observe that Jem is becoming a new person. This is also suggested through the phrase, “Oh, go on and leave me alone. I’m readin’ the paper.” He doesn’t spend much time with Scout anymore and is acting like a man, like Atticus. Furthermore, he makes logical contradictions to Aunt Alexandra’s beliefs about social standings, for example when Aunt Alexandra thinks that staying on a piece of land for a long time earned a family respect, Jem replies that this makes the Ewells respectable and that is stupid.

Scout matures immensely throughout the trial scene and her understanding of situations improves. The quote, “which was a lie, she has but one must lie under certain circumstances and at all times when one can’t do anything about them,” suggests that she knows to accept it and she learns to not throw a tantrum. This reflects her maturity of the trial further on. Scout is very comprehensive of what she is witnessing. The line, “Never, never, never, on cross-examination ask a witness a question you already know the answer to,” suggests that she was brought up with the knowledge of legal terms. Scout becomes very motherly or wife-like towards Atticus. She cares for him dearly. We can see this from the line, “Your stomach’s growling; you better take some soda.” This maturity is important as she is caring for Atticus especially during the time of the trial. Another time Scout shows maturity is when she takes Dill out. She explains Mr Gilmer’s behaviour to Dill, and shows she understands more of the trial than people think.

The theme of learning coincides with the themes of growing up and childhood innocence because all the life lessons Jem and Scout learn help them grow up, but in some cases shatter their innocence.

Tom Robinson is convicted purely because he is a black man and his accuser is white. The evidence is so powerfully in his favour, that race is clearly the single defining factor in the jury's decision. The children are very disappointed with the jury’s verdict, and can’t understand the reason for the unfairness and prejudice. Jem has an epiphany once the jury have announced their verdict and that is when he realises how the world works, and how not everyone is kind-hearted. He and Scout are surrounded by all the people who try to make a real difference, such as Heck Tate and Miss Maudie, and they help him to understand these things and comfort him during this hard time of learning. The realization that there is true evil within their society shakes Jem to the core. He held a strong belief in the goodness of all people, but after the trial must re-evaluate his understanding of human nature and come to terms with disappointing realities of inequality, racism, and general unfairness. Scout also struggles to understand these things, but even following the trial is able to maintain her belief in the goodness of human nature as she is still young and naive.

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Atticus fights against racism, and a few other townspeople are on his side, including Miss Maudie and Judge Taylor. Jem and Scout also believe in racial equality, but are obviously in the minority. When Atticus loses the trial, he tries to make his children understand that although he lost, he helped move along the cause of ending racism as evidenced by the jury's lengthy deliberation period. Usually, such a trial would be decided before the trial had even begun just based on race.

The theme of the mockingbird comes out in this scene, with Tom Robinson as an example ...

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