Helen Tran Ellis Honors Language Arts January 3rd, 2018 Fear of The Unknown “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy… but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” – Atticus Finch (TKAM p.117). To Kill a Mockingbird took place during the 1930’s; in a small Southern town called Maycomb, where racism and separation were prevalent in society. People in Maycomb made a line that separated themselves from others. In to Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee shows the effects of prejudice in society through the dialogue, setting and figurative language. To begin with, Harper Lee shows the effects of prejudice in society through dialogue. Atticus mentioned the black stereotypes in his closing speech in the trial, “…confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption-the evil assumption-that all Ne**** lie, that all Ne***** are basically immoral beings, that all Ne*** men are not to be trusted around our women, an assumption one associate with minds of their caliber” (Lee 273). This evidence shows, the discrimination and hardships black men had to face during this time of racial segregation. Black people were stereotyped and are perceived in a negative light in society. In which, they were prejudged before they can prove their innocence. In the beginning of the novel, Scout exaggerated Boo Radley’s appearance similar to a monster using tone, “Boo was about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that’s why his hands were bloodstained – if you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off¨ (Lee 65). With this intention, Scout described Boo Radley and exaggerated his features into something that he was not. Miss Maudie tells the kids that Boo Radley was a nice boy who spoke nicely, “…that is a sad house. I remember Arthur Radley when he was a boy. He always spoke nicely to me, no matter what folks said he did. Spoke as nicely as he knew how” (Lee 61). With this in mind, it shows the lack of understanding that Scout had in this situation. She judged Boo like the rest of the town and treating him like an outsider, Secondly, Harper Lee shows the effects of prejudice in society through figurative speech. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” (Lee 90). In this metaphor, the mockingbirds symbolize the victims of prejudice in To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Robinson. As can be seen in this novel, Tom did nothing to the townspeople of Maycomb but he was still being preconceived. Despite Atticus’ efforts, Tom did not have the opportunity to be, “innocent until proven guilty”. As soon as a black man was accused of raping a white woman, he is guilty. Mayella took advantage of her social status as a white woman to accuse Tom Robinson of rape knowing that the jury side with her. Thus, all Tom did was help out a woman he, “…felt right sorry for her, she seemed to try more’n the rest of ’em” (Lee 125). But in the end, Tom Robinson was a victim of the evils of prejudice which took his life. Furthermore, during Atticus’ closing statement in the courtroom, he says,”…this case should never have come to trial. This case is as simple as black and white” (Lee 203). To emphasize, this is a pun that references the difficulty of the trial that Atticus’ took. Atticus talks about the simplicity of black and white when the idea of “black and white” goes more in-depth than just the two colors. In this case, the racial division during the 1930’s was at its peak with the Jim Crow laws. At the time, the black citizens were separated from the whites and went to different schools, churches and even sat in different sections during the trial. To begin with, Harper Lee shows the effect of prejudice in society through setting. This quote shows the division between different groups in Maycomb at the beginning of the novel, “There’s four kinds of folks in the world. There’s the ordinary kind like us and the neighbors, there’s the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes”(Lee 230). At the time, Maycomb was in a state where the Jim Crow laws were widely spread. And people would judge each other regardless of if they were acquaintances or not. This was a large part of their culture and continues to be as the story progresses. These four “kind of folks” show the disconnection the community has as a whole. Social roles play a large part in Maycomb since at the time of this story, was affected by the Great Depression. Significantly, people in the same class as the Cunninghams and Ewells had to face injustice over characteristics that they had no control over that differentiates one from another. Work Cited Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006.
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