Question: Analyse how ideas (Themes, setting, characters) were presented to be thought provoking and relevant.
Harper Lee grew up in Alabama during the 1930s and wrote her masterpiece “To Kill A Mockingbird” during the 1960s during the height of the Civil Rights movement. Lee gets the reader to think about the reality they live in and what issues are really going on and Lee does this by using certain characters, themes, and settings. Lee uses these ideas to show the reader the deep and dark underbelly of Maycomb’s racial injustice and the history of Maycomb’s systemic racism. Lee uses the settings of the courthouse, the missionary circle, the Maycomb school, and the first purchase church to show the reader the racial injustice that is rife within Maycomb society. Harper Lee bases her novel “To Kill A Mockingbird” around her childhood and where she spent growing up in Maycomb Alabama. She lived with her Father Atticus, her brother Jem and Calpurnia (Who is their African American house maid).
In “To Kill A Mockingbird’ Harper Lee uses Settings, themes, and characters to show the reader the deep and dark history of Maycomb’s racial injustice. In “To Kill A Mockingbird’ the first place the reader gets to see the extreme racial injustice throughout the town is when Calpurnia takes Jem and Scout to the First Purchase church which is located in the quarters (This is where black people were allowed to live). Before the characters even get to the church it is extremely evident of the racial discrimination that is rife throughout the town because we see how the African Americans were not even allowed to live in the town itself. We also see the racial discrimination througout the society when one of the members of the church, Lula kicks up a storm because Calpurnia brought white children to the church, the discrimiation is obvious when Lula says “Why did you bring these white chill’n to our church, they have they own church” It is evident from her quote that Lula is also a racist. This links back to the theme of discrimination because it shows how discrimination is rife throughout Maycomb society and shows just how rotten society is.
The Missionary circle is a setting that shows the reader the true history of racial discrimination within Maycomb society and it also shows the theme of hypocrisy. The Missionary circle is a group of ladies that get together after church to discuss the plights of the oppressed people overseas (specifically the Mrunas who are an impoverished tribe in Africa) and try to come up with ways they can help. “Mrs Merriweather was certainly the most devout women throughout Maycomb” this quote shows the theme of hypocrisy because is she was so “Devout” why does she label Tom Robinson’s (Who is a black man wrongly convicted of raping a white woman) wife as “That darkys wife” another quote that shows hypocrisy within Maycomb is “Mrs Merriweathers large brown eyes always filled with tears when she considered the oppressed” This quote shows hypocrisy because she feels upset because the Mrunas are oppressed but yet she oppresses the black community within her own town. This links back to the theme of hypocrisy and racial dioscrimination because Mrs Merriweather is supposed to be a devout woman which means she should follow what Jesus says and Love her neighbour as she loves herself but it’s obvious that she isn’t a proper Christian because she discriminates against the Black community within Maycomb.
Another setting that is key to showing the idea of Racial discrimination within Maycomb society is the courthouse. “But for the south porch, the Maycomb county courthouse was early Victorian, presenting an inoffensive vista when seen from the north. From the other side however, Greek revival columns clashed with a big nineteenth-century clock tower that housed a rusty unreliable instrument, a view indicating a people determined to preserve every physical scrap of the past”. Lee uses the courthouse to show the reader how non-progressive Maycomb is, and shows how racism prevents Maycomb from moving into a harmonious society. The courthouse is supposed to be a place of equality but is far from it as we see when Lee introduces us to the “Coloured Balcony” this showed the reader that even within the courthouse where there should be equality the Jim Crow laws of the south have dug its teeth in deep and infected the courthouse with racial discrimination. Lee uses the courthouse to show the reader that even within law some things are not right and that social change starts with people, not the law and incites people that they should change themselves.
The Jim Crow laws were laws that legalised segregation in the south and were set into law from around 1876 to 1965. The law’s motto was “Separate but equal” but this was never the case. It is evident that there was racial discrimination during these times because the facilities that the African Americans had were not equal to what the white community had.
Another place where Lee shows the reader racial discrimination and hypocrisy is within Scouts school is when Cecil Jacobs reads an article about Hitler and his mistreatment of the Jews. “There are no better people than the Jews, and why Hitler doesn’t think so is a mystery to me, they contribute to every society that they live in, and most of all, they are deeply religious people”. This quote shows the hypocrisy within Scouts school because Cecil doesn’t understand why Hitler is mistreating the Jews because they contribute to every society and are deeply religious, but fails to understand that society within Maycomb does the same thing because the African American community also contributes to society and are also deeply religious. Miss Gates the teacher also says “That’s the difference between America and Germany. We are a democracy and Germany is a dictatorship. Over here we don’t believe in persecuting anybody. Persecuting comes from people who are prejudice”. Another quote that shows extreme hypocrisy is when Cecil says “I don’t understand why anybody would persecute the Jews they’re white aren’t they”. This quote shows the Racism that lies within Maycomb society because Cecil thinks that if the Jews were black he would understand why they would get persecuted.
Because Harper Lee published her novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ in 1960 during the civil rights movement, the novel really challenged the reader to think about the society that they were living in. Lee used the novel to show the reader the themes of discrimination and injustice that thrived within society during that time. Lee used Maycomb, a fictional small town in Alabama, that shows how the disease of racism can be the rifest in the smallest of places.