QUESTION: Analyse how specific events reinforced your understanding of one or more ideas. “Ideas” may refer to character, theme, or setting.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD A NOVEL BY HARPER LEE
‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, a novel written by Harper Lee in 1960, follows the story of Tom Robinson, an innocent black man arrested and charged for the rape of a white woman named Mayella Ewell. In Tom’s court trial, Lee reinforces the extent of discrimination he receives as a black man by using dramatic irony, character intentions, symbolism, and derogatory dialogue. The guilty verdict of Tom Robinson reflects towards the irony of the court’s purpose of serving justice towards the innocents.
Set in the 1930’s during The Great Depression, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee emphasises the racial discrimination driven by people’s ignorance and lack of sympathy towards the innocents - symbolised by the ‘mockingbird’. The novel is narrated by an young, innocent girl named Scout Finch who slowly discovers the discrimination planted in her hometown as she grows older. A quote from the novel by a character named Atticus Finch tells, “…It is a sin to kill a mockingbird”, is significant as Tom Robinson, an innocent Black man, dies and suffers for the sins of others.
Right from the beginning of the court trial, Scout already notices a peculiar “coloured balcony” that runs along three walls of the room. It shows that the court is divided by colour; Black and White people are separated - remarking the prejudices of the time. This quote is significant as it shows irony towards the purpose of serving justice at the court. Scout also mentions that the courthouse has a “view indicating people determined to preserve every physical scrap of the past”; symbolic of the courthouse by people being stuck in the past with their vile, racist roots. By this description, the setting of the the courthouse is explicitly remarked as a place of injustice and discrimination; serving the opposite of its purpose.
Bob Ewell is Mayella’s father - also known as the town’s ‘white trash’. In the court trial, Atticus Finch, Tom’s lawyer, interrogates him with questions such as if he had called a doctor after witnessing Mayella’s condition, which he replies to with a simple, “no sir”, meaning there is no evidence of rape. One of his testimony’s states that Mayella gets “bunged up on the right side of her face”, indicating that her attacker is most likely a left-handed person. Later on, Atticus gets him to write his name on a piece of paper and ironically, he writes with his left hand. This quote is significant as it shows that Bob’s intention is to shamelessly deceive everyone in the courtroom, especially Tom - however in the eyes of the white audience and juries, Tom is still the one in the wrong as their racism blinds them from the truth that Tom is indeed innocent.
Other than Tom Robinson, the court trial also shows that Mayella Ewell receives discrimination. Scout describes her as the ‘loneliest person in the world’ as “White people wouldn’t have anything to do with her because she lived among pigs; Negroes wouldn’t have anything to do with her because she was White.”. Mayella has no friends, education, lover, and at the age of nineteen, it must be difficult for her to be familiar with receiving respect and affection from others. When a fine-looking specimen like Tom gives her attention, it must’ve been a whole new experience for her; given the fact that her father is an abusive alcoholic and her siblings are all delinquents. However, aside from her pitiful background, Mayella still tries to keep clean and plants red geraniums in her backyard; symbolic for her deep desire of having a better life than what she has.
Lastly, the event of Tom’s trial is significant as it shows the casual racism he receives as a black man from White people who think they are more superior than him. Mr. Gilmer, Mayella’s lawyer interrogates Tom about her and asks, “Had your eyes on her a long time, hadn’t you, boy?”. He uses the word ‘boy’, a derogatory word to belittle Tom, to remind the jury that he is a Black man. He also questions Tom why he felt ‘sorry’ for Mayella like it was the most indecorous thing he’s ever heard. He does this to once again remind the jury of Tom’s place; who is he, as a Black man, to feel sorry for a White woman? Receiving casual racism at a very place like the court, shows that justice is non-existent in the town of Maycomb, Alabama.
In modern society, a wide community of people worldwide still experiences injustice and discrimination. An example is the gender wage discrimination of women being paid less than men for being employed in male dominant fields. Male pilots earn salaries 26.6% higher than their female coworkers, on average. Female chefs and C-suite executives also face similar workplace biases, earning 24.6% and 24% less than their male counterparts, respectively.
These are caused by job discrimination (with more men in higher-paid jobs and women in lower-paid occupations), vertical discrimination (too few women in senior positions, and thus better paying roles), inadequate equal pay laws, average working work hours for women, and obstacles to entrance into the labour market (such as employment and single parenting rates). According to WEF (World Economic Forum), the global gender gap will take 108 years to close and economic gender parity will take 202 years to achieve; an appalling amount of time to stop the unjust discrimination against women in male dominant fields.
‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee emphasises the racial discrimination driven by people’s ignorance and lack of sympathy towards the innocents - symbolised by the ‘mockingbird’. During Tom’s trial, Lee reinforces the extent of discrimination he receives as a black man by using dramatic irony, character intentions, symbolism, and derogatory dialogue. This shows that, even at court, people still have the ability to belittle, mock and deceive a fellow person just because they view them as inferior.