“To Kill a Mockingbird” Analysis
Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird was published in the 1960s, when the civil rights movement was growing and striving to attain equal rights for African-Americans. During this period, racial segregation and discrimination were commonplace throughout the United States, particularly in the Southern states. Although civil rights activity was widespread when Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee chose instead to set the novel during the 1930s in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama. The story is narrated by a six year old girl named Jean Louise Finch or "Scout". Scout lives with her older ...view middle of the document...
It is through the manner in which these characters interact that Lee reveals how human behavior is motivated by preconceived notions about race. There are several white characters in the novel that are clearly portrayed in a negative light. The Ewells and Aunt Alexandra are examples of characters in the novel who freely express their superiority over the black community, and take it upon themselves to perpetuate the segregation of African-Americans.
Bob Ewell specifically shows prejudice towards the black community when he accuses Tom Robinson of raping his daughter Mayella. Although Tom Robinson did not commit the crime for which he was accused, Bob Ewell incriminated Tom Robinson because Mayella had ‘tempted a Negro’ and in doing so had broken a ‘rigid and time honoured code’. Although the Ewells are members of the white community and by default are socially above the black community, they live on a garbage dump and are regarded as white trash. As Lee writes, ‘All the little man on the witness stand had that made him any better than his nearest neighbours was that, if scrubbed with lye soap in very hot water, his skin was white’.
Aunt Alexandra also expresses her distaste for the black community in various ways. For instance, Aunt Alexandra refuses to let Atticus’ children visit Calpurnia’s home because it would be inappropriate for white children to interact with the black community in their neighbourhood, let alone their house. According to Aunt Alexandra, black and white people can never be on equal footing and she attempts to impose this view on the Finch family.
Visual racism and exclusion are both very obvious throughout the novel. When Tom Robinson and Atticus go to trial, a separate balcony is reserved for the “coloured” people : “The coloured balcony ran along three walls of the courtroom like a second-story veranda…” (Lee 164) This indicates clearly the lack of social justice in the novel. People of other races than Caucasian in a public building have reserved seating, a practice that would be severely denounced today. This shows the drastic contrast from the book to our everyday world. Similarly, in Maycomb, people of other races than Caucasian are automatically treated as servants or as residents of a lower class without even considering their actual financial situation: “It was an ancient paint-peeled frame building, the only church in Maycomb with a steeple and bell, called First Purchase because it was paid for from the first earnings of freed slaves. Negroes worshipped in it on Sundays and white men gambled in it on weekdays.” (Lee 118) This statement perfectly shows the lack of respect the other townspeople had for the African American residents of Maycomb and the social differences that were automatically insinuated on behalf of the African American community, an act that would never be performed today.
When Calpurnia takes the children to church, some members were offended by the children's presence, a racist act...