Analyse how specific events reinforced your understanding of one or more ideas.
Specific events from within Harper Lee’s well-received Pullitzer-Prize winning “To Kill A Mockingbird” are introduced to increase and further reinforce the reader’s comprehension of the important ideas of institutionalized and natural discrimination, appearance vs reality and the journey from childhood to adulthood. These ideas are all shown through the small fictional bygone town of Maycomb, Alabama, where this Southern Gothic is set. Maycomb is ignorant and the majority of townsfolk still continue to hold onto the deep-rooted discriminatory attitudes that destroy any hope of this forgotten town, from progressing towards equality.
The book itself was first written and published in 1960, and has since been adapted into a film of the same name. Harper Lee grew up during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, which involved many oppressed coloured people fighting for the destruction of segregation laws that enforced racial discrmination in the United States. Lee’s novel also takes place during the 1930’s, the lowest years of the Great Depression, a period of economic downfall that was triggered by the Wall Street crash of 1929. During the narrative, the reader is constantly reminded of the economic disparity created by The Depression. “To Kill A Mockingbird is also placed within what is referred to as the Jim Crow era. The Jim Crow laws were a series of segregation laws that existed throughout the 20th century that enforced racism and unfairly presented second-rate living conditions for coloured folk. Harper Lee wrote her novel to educate her reader about the reality of discrmination in our world, and how important it is that we fight for equality and to end discrimnation in all its numerous forms. She challenges us to confront the racism in our own lives.
The story focuses on 10 year-old boy Jem Finch, who lives with his younger sister Jean Loiuse (Scout) Finch who serves as the book’s narrator, alongside their father and successful lawyer Atticus Finch, who has taken on the challenge of defending Tom Robinson in court, a negro man wrongfully accused of rape. As Jem journeys from childhood towards adolescence, he begins to lose his innocence as he comes to realise the true nature of his sweet little town, he unravels the deep truth about Maycomb, that its townsfolk are bitter, twisted and that racism has become so instinctive and natural to them. Jem also learns that life is not fair, and things do not always go the way we wish them to, or the way that is morally right.
Jem Finch’s encounters with Mrs Dubose taught him about the reality of life and also the theme of appearance vs reality, that not everything is always as it seems, along with the importance of true courage in the face of adversity. Tom Robinson’s trial and conviction inside the Maycomb Courthouse, taught the reader about the innocence of children, and how instinctive discrmination has become too many people across the world. Scout and best friend Dill Harris’ encounter with apparently drunk Dolphus Raymond conveys the ignorance of those affected by this so-called “disease,’’ and the lengths that people are forced to go to to withstand these pressures.
An event that Harper Lee used efficiently in this text, to reinforce the reader’s understanding about the ideas of appearance vs reality, is young Jem Finch’s ordeal with elderly neighbour Mrs Dubose. Mrs Dubose constantly harasses Jem and Scout, for their fathers decision to defend Tom Robinson in a court of law. She tells the children that their father is a “ngger lover” and that he is “no better than the nggers and trash that he works for.” This frustrates Jem, and he decides to rip out all of Mrs Dubose’s white camellias. Atticus scolds him for this, and he encourages his son to “hold his head high and be a gentleman,” and ignore her comments. Jem apologises, and is forced to read by her bedside during her final months. After she passes away, Atticus tells Jem that she was in fact battling a morphine addiction, and that she demonstrated true courage by weaning herself off so that she could pass on free of her addiction. Harper Lee uses this encounter to teach her audience about the importance of perseverance and determination when faced with adversity. She also teaches us to look a little deeper before drawing conclusions about people, and to remember to show kindness to all, regardless of what they say and to not stoop to the level of others.
The focus point and major event of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” is undoubtedly the trial of Tom Robinson. Tom is accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a young woman who lives in extreme poverty with her father and numerous siblings adjacent to the town dump. Her father, Bob Ewell, is a cruel and malicious alcoholic, and it is hinted that he abuses Mayella. She lives in fear of her father, and she falsifies her testimony, partly out of fear of what her father would do to her if she did not. Despite of there being no evidence whatsoever to suggest Tom’s guilt, the all-white jury convicts finds him guilty of the attempted rape of Ms Ewell. Jem Finch who displays his childhood innocence during this part of a book asking his father, “We’ve won haven’t we?” Along with “I don’t see how any jury could convict on what we’ve heard.” The jury finds Tom guilty, as they are blinded by their instinctive racist attitudes. This confuses Jem, and he struggles to comprehend the true reality of the town he lives in. Atticus knows that Tom never stood a chance, but chose to defend him nevertheless, proving his heroic nature. Harper Lee uses this event to really convey the reality of the instinctive discmrimniation that is embedded deep within the character of Maycomb. The jury does not doubt Tom’s guilt. They truly believe that he is guilty, and Lee uses this example to get the audience to understand how serious of an issue racism is in our world, and our communities.
A third and final event that Harper Lee skillfully incorporated into the text to further highlight the themes of integrated racism and hate within the town of Maycomb, is Scout and Dill’s interaction with Dolphus Raymond outside of the town courthouse, during the second part of the novel. Dill Harris is Scout’s neighbour, and is himself a victim of discrimination and has been through a lot in his short life. During the intermission of the court case, the two encounter a man by the name of Dolphus Raymond, outside of the Courthouse. Raymond is known to be a drunk, and has a black wife and mixed race kids. Much to Scout and Dill’s surprise, Raymond reveals to them that he in fact is not an alcoholic, but simply carries around a bottle of coca-cola concealed within a paper bag. This provides a sound explanation to the Maycomb locals, as to why he makes the choices he does. He tells Scout and Dill that “It helps to give them a reason you see,” and once Dill begins to cry he then says, “Cry about the simple hell you see people give other people, without even thinking. Cry about the hell white people give coloured folk, without stopping to think that they’re people too.” Harper Lee utilizes this minor character to convey to her audience the ignorance displayed by those who have become clouded by their instinctive attitudes, and the lenses through which they see the world. Lee uses Raymond to personify how innocent people have been forced to change their ways, to accommodate the racist views of those around them.
Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird,” focuses on the themes of discrimination, along with the journey of childhood to adulthood, and the loss of that innocence that Jem Finch experiences over the course of the book. Specific events are used to reinforce the instinctive and natural deep-rooted racism that has befallen the bygone fictional southern town of Maycomb. Lee uses Jem’s encounter with Mrs Dubose, to display the importance of true courage and determination, and to respect others and show them respect regardless of their actions. Tom Robinson’s trial and verdict, educates the reader about the harsh reality of discrmination, and how instinctive it has become in many parts of the world. The character of Dolphus Raymond is introduced to Dill and Scout, to demonstrate a practical example, of the lengths that people are forced to go to escape the judgement of others, and just how natural the hatred and disharmony has become, to those contaminated by the “disease” of discrimination, as Harper Lee phrases it. Lee uses her novel to challenge the reader to take a stand against discrimniation in all of its many shapes and forms, and to work towards an earth where all are treated fairly and equally. Through “To Kill A Mockingbird,” we are shown the very real presence of these attitudes in our own societies, and the inhumane consequences faced by those unfairly oppressed. In the words of Scout Finch who possesses an attitude we should all aspire to replicate, “I think they’re just one kind of folks, folks.”