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The Message Of Moral Responsibility In To Kill A Mockingbird

1598 words - 7 pages

The Message of Moral Responsibility in To Kill a Mockingbird

Not only is To Kill a Mockingbird a fun novel to read, it is purposeful. Harper Lee wrote the novel to demonstrate the way in which the world and its people should live together in harmony through a basic moral attitude of treating others with respect and kindness. The novel received the Pulitzer Prize in 1960, which places it among the best adult novels ever written; although it achieved this high recognition, today’s primary readers are adolescents. However, at the turning of the twenty-first century, one might wrongfully assume Harper Lee intended To Kill a Mockingbird a novel for adolescents and ignore its lessons for ...view middle of the document...

In the first part of the novel, Lee establishes conflict as Atticus Finch, the father, and the surrounding community, through various situations and conversations, enlighten Jem and Scout Finch with lessons of moral ethic. The moral responsibility of others is to express kindness and respect to others in a world where people of different races, socioeconomic statuses, and cultures exist. In setting the tone Lee establishes the mood through mentions of the Great Depression to remind her reader of the hardships the nation endured. In addition she uses the perspective many people had regarding different races to provide a strong connection to how people should coexist in the world. Lee sets the novel in the 1930s to provide her reader with a specific epoch in time as many of her readers would vividly recall the emotion and attitude.

Furthermore, Lee establishes a strong moral foundation through Atticus and Calpurnia (the Finches’ maid), as well as other adults in the community so Jem and Scout can learn to live in the world and get along with almost anyone. Many lessons are taught to the children through the adults with whom they come in contact; however, most importantly Atticus teaches the children that “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view –“ (Lee 30). Lee sets up several incidents in the novel requiring the children to employ this lesson. In “Communication in To Kill a Mockingbird” Lacy Daigle discusses the various moral lessons constructed. Using Atticus and the Maycomb community, Lee illustrates these morals through example, verbal statements, and experience to show these ideas as they relate to a “broader view of mankind” (Daigle 59). Several scenes depict Lee’s application of these various moral ethics: Atticus verbally chastises his children for nosing into other people’s lives, he genuinely shows kindness and respect to Mrs. Dubose even after her condemnation of his work, and he works ardently to set right the wrong being placed upon Tom Robinson.

Throughout the novel, Lee establishes a historical context with which her audience can see the necessity for moral lessons. Not only does Lee set the mood with the Great Depression she also uses an attitude to enhance her message. African Americans in the South frequently faced false allegations, and juries, because of biases, wrongfully convicted. Because Lee’s trial of Tom Robinson similarly recasts the 1930s Scottsboro trial, it seems likely she chose to use the high-profile, nationally exploited trial as the foundation for her novel. The novel’s trial, like the Scottsboro Trial, implicates a black man and accuses him of raping a white woman. The trials have similar evidence to prove the accused’s noninvolvement in the incident; however, because of white society’s racist fear during the 1930s conviction results. Fictionalizing this historical event helps Lee establish the misguided attitudes of many whites, especially those in the deep...

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