In today’s society many men, women and children have been a victim or guilty of being prejudice towards others because of their differences. Prejudice is a preconceived opinion; that is not based on reason or actual experience. In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, prejudice is one of the main themes. Lee addresses the topic through the characters of the story and delivers a message to the readers and suggests prejudice is present in the world. Therefore, people must take action to resolve this issue due to the multiple ways it can affect an individual.
Lee depicts the theme of prejudice trough the haracters of Atticus, Scout, Boo Radley, Tom Robinson, Bob Ewell, and Mrs. Dubose. Each character gives a unique insight towards the theme of prejudice whether they are a victim, guilty of being prejudice, against it, or a combination of both. The first character Lee uses to present the theme of prejudice is through Atticus Finch. By being a victim of prejudice and opposing to the concept of discrimination and prejudice. On the onset of the plot; Atticus is viewed as a respectable and honourable man in Maycomb County. The perspective of the townspeople towards Atticus changes the moment he takes
Tom Robinson’s case a man of colour that is falsely accused of rape. For this reason, Atticus is view as a ” nigger lover” and a disgrace towards the society, “My folks said your daddy was a disgrace”( ). This shows how the town views Atticus as a shame for protecting a man. The discrimination towards him goes beyond that adults tells their children Atticus is unrespectable indicating the patheticness of the society. In addition to being called a disgrace by the town, he is also discriminated by his family member, “I guess it ain’t your fault if Atticus is a nigger- lover. 83)
Not only he is verbally harassed he is also physically mistreated by Mister Ewell, who spits on Atticus face. Indeed, Atticus is discriminated for helping a man of colour, but this does not hinder him for advocating for equality. To start with, Atticus lectures his children not to judge Boo Radley; he always reminds his kids to understand someone you must put yourself in the same position, “You never really understand a person until you climbed into his skin and walk around it. “), Secondly, when Scout asks Atticus if he is a nigger lover he responds, certainly am I do my best to love everybody” (108).
That is to say; he is proud to defend Tom Robinson, and he is not ashamed of being called “a nigger lover” educating quality to her daughter. Lastly, Atticus tries to abolish prejudice by lecturing the crowd in the courtroom, ” The state has not produced one iota of medical evidence that the crime Tom Robison is charged with ever took place. It has relied upon the testimony of two witnesses whose evidence has not only been flatly contradicted by the defendant” (103). Atticus reminds the crowd not to judge someone’s race, rather to solely base it on Tom’s testimony.
The second character Lee uses to depict the theme of prejudice is through Scout by being a victim of discrimination due to her sex and age. Life as a female in the early twentieth century is difficult they are certain expectations a female has to live up to, such as wearing elegant clothes and staying in the home to do chores. Lee demonstrates how girls are opposed to difficult challenges through Scout’s character. At a young age, Scout battles sexism, “I was not so sure but Jem told me I was being a girl, that girls always imagined things that’s why other people hated them so” (119).
Being expose to this mentality can have a significant impact to a female growing up. Hence, she would behave like a man since she is being neglected and told women are “evil”. On the other hand, Mrs Dubose tells Scout she is not allowed to wear overalls because it considered to be masculine and should wear feminine clothes instead, ” What are you doing on those overalls? You should be in a dress and camisole young lady! ” (101). Lee is addressing to the readers in the 1900s there is an apparent disparity between gender roles and stereotypes female were to stay at home while men work.
This also creates a feeling of isolation and confusion for Scout since she is told girls are evil and now Mrs Dubose is telling her to act feminine which leads to isolation. To illustrate that, Jem and Dill exclude Scout when they play. Scout reveals her thoughts and expresses that she is unwanted, ” but I kept aloof from their more foolhardy schemes for a while and a pain of being called a girl, I spent most of my remaining twilights that summer sitting on Mrs Maudie’s porch. ( ) Lee also reminds the readers there are boundaries in what a girl can do, ” ‘like us and Miss Maudie’, the Finches nearby neighbour don’t serve the jury” (252). The second type of prejudice Scout experiences is ageism. Scout is often excluded from discussion and often treated as a child in spite of clearly showing maturity by being able to understand her father’s decision protecting Tom Robinson. In spite of this, she is still not being taken seriously because of her age.
For instance, when Jem tells Scout, not to antagonise Aunt Alexandra and added, ” It’s different with grown folks we… “(184). Jem shows prejudice action towards her sister because he is older and assumes that Scout is not competent enough to grasp ituations. She again suffers from discrimination when she asks Miss Maudie why Boo Radley is locked up, ” You are too young to understand it. “( )Miss Maudie is implying that Scout is not old enough to understand the ordeal with Mr Arthur it proves how older people see children as immature and explaining things to them would be pointless.
The third character Lee uses to demonstrate the theme of prejudice is through Boo Radley. Harper Lee uses Boo Radley’s character to show how people fear and do not accept who is different. Boo Radley is a victim of prejudice due to being an anomaly. The people of Maycomb County are critical and judgemental towards Boo. The neighbourhood depicts Boo as a “malevolent phantom” because he has not been outside and chose to isolate himself. Seeing that Tom is helping a black man, the townspeople makes rumours about him.
A description of him according to Jem, ” 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 hand were blood stained if you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his yes popped, and he drooled most of the time. “(13) This quote reveals how gossip can affect an individual’s perception Jem who has not seen Boo Radley is creating false images of him due to the false information that surrounds him set up by the adults.
The adults show prejudice towards Boo by telling ridiculous stories about him. According to Miss Stephanie Boo stabbed Mr Radley in the leg with a pair of scissors and peeks into windows at night. Furthermore, the town blames him for any misdeed that occurs, “When people’s azaleas froze in a cold snap it was because he had breathed on them. Any stealthy small crime ommitted in Maycomb were his work. “(9) And ” Once the town was terrorized by a series of morbid nocturnal events: people’s chicken and household pets were found mutilated; although the culprit was Crazy Addie, people still looked at the Radley place” (9).
Both quotes demonstrate how much discrimination Boo suffers from the townspeople and automatically declares Boo as the cause for any misfortune events that occur it implies how close-minded and pathetic people are, living in a wasteful life by gossiping and blaming their misfortune on someone else. Later in the novel, Jem realises Boo chooses to stay inside ecause people are going to discriminate him due to being different, “I think I’m begging to understand why Boo Radley stayed shut up in the house all this time… t’s because he wants to stay inside” ( ).
Jem realised that Boo had been oppressed all of his life by his father’s religious zeal. In short, Boo suffers from discrimination due to the stigma the community entitles him with when in actuality, Boo is a kind-hearted man cares for children. The fourth character Lee uses to illustrate the theme of prejudice is through Tom Robinson. In the novel, Tom Robinson is wrongly accused of raping a girl named Mayella Ewell.
Atticus who defends Tom is given a daunting task for the reason that he knows the people of Maycomb County would not believe in Tom’s testimony it shows how all black men are viewed as liars and criminals, ” The only thing we’ve got is a black man’s word against the Ewell. The evidence boils down to you did- I didn’t. The jury couldn’t possibly be expected to take Tom Robinson’s word against the Ewell. “(91) In addition to having already, a significant disadvantage a mob tries to kill Tom Robinson before he can come to trial this shows how the lack of maturity and prejudice is present in Maycomb trough this action
Lee illustrates how segregation among races is present and how white people think they are superior. Furthermore, Tom suffers from verbal harassment. Derogatory terms used to address Tom, “I know who was, all right, lived down yonder in that nigger nest”(177). During the trial when Tom Robinson was call upon to as a witness Mr. Ewell’s lawyer asked him questions that seem to suggest blacks are inhumane and do not feel any sympathy for other individuals unless it is going to benefit them, “You felt sorry for her, you felt sorry for her”(201). At the deciding moments of Tom’s trial Atticus reminds the citizen not to judge
Tom Robinson by his race but what the truth speaks, “You know the truth, and the truth is some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. ” ( ). Ultimately, Tom is charged as guilty and had an unfair trial because of the prejudice that surrounds black people. The fifth character Lee uses to illustrate the theme of prejudice is through Bob Ewell by being prejudice others. Mr. Ewell despises the people of colour; this is evident on ow he addresses them and acts.
He addresses black people with derogatory terms such as calling them with the “N” word and on top of that; he purposely does not call black people by their name as a sign of disrespect, “I ain’t touched her, Link Deas and ain’t about to go with no nigger! “O) Mr Ewell purposely uses the personal pronoun her to avoid calling Mrs Robinson by her name and to add insult to injury he used the “N” word to humiliate and dehumanise her. Both quotes reveal the racist behaviour most white people have towards blacks their mentality is people of colour are inferior.
Therefore, they have the right to discriminate and address them with derogatory terms. Throughout the novel; he continues to address the coloured people the same way, “Why, I run for Tate as quick as | could I know who it was, all right live down yonder in that nigger-nest passed the house every day. “O) In addition to verbally abusing black people, Mr Ewell’s action also shows his resentment towards people of colour. The fact, Mr Ewell prosecutes Tom for sexually harassing her daughter Mayella suggest all black people are criminals, “I seen that black nigger yonder ruttin’ in on my Mayella”.
In the same fashion, Mr Ewell shows no compassion for those who are siding with Tom black nor white. Atticus and his family were victimised by Mr Ewell, “Too proud to fight, you nigger-loving’ bastard”() he also laid his hands on Atticus children. Lastly, he victimised Mrs Robinson by making her walk a mile extra for not allowing her to walk near his house or else he would throw rocks at her. His actions towards people of coloured and who supports them suggest the idea of segregation and opposing to equality.