Q) Analyse how different places were developed for a particular purpose.
Authors use settings to inform readers about issues. In Harper Lee’s masterpiece ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Lee comments on different places throughout the novel to highlight the racial discrimination, inequality, and injustice in the Maycomb society. She uses micro settings such as the missionary circle, the courthouse, the first person church, scouts school, and Maycomb as a whole to emphasize the author’s purpose of racial discrimination. The purpose of these micro settings was to highlight the segregation, hypocrisy, ignorance, and racist attitudes of the Maycomb society
Harper Lee grew up in Alabama in the 1930s and observed the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and ’60s. The American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was significant and led to major changes for American society. Martin Luther King jr, Rosa Parks, and others were all part of the public landscape as they fought for racial equality. Lee’s audience would have been aware of these events as they read her novel and would have seen the real-life parallels in their society. In this way, Lee contributed to the civil rights movement by highlighting important issues that were easy to understand and emphasized the possibility for possible change and racial harmony. Unfortunately 160 years later, despite improvements, America still suffers from some racial inequality.
Lee draws the reader’s attention to the micro setting of the courthouse, a place that should uphold equality. One such example comes from inside the courthouse during the Tom Robinson trial where there is a balcony deligated to only coloured folks. “They’re right up yonder in the coloured balcony.” Lee has employed a range of imagery here. The use of the word ‘coloured’ automatically paints a picture in your head of the segregation in the courthouse which defeats the meaning of equality and justice in the courtroom. This quote is said by a 9-year-old girl (scout) who has grown up with this kind of racist culture which has become a normality in Maycomb. Another example comes from Judge Taylor who says, “I ain’t never seen a jury side in favour of a coloured man over a white man.” This highlights the non-progressive racism in the Maycomb society. The jury’s racist attitudes are an example of the injustice in the courthouse that should uphold equality but as soon as Tom Robinson was accused he was guilty. Lee’s description of the courthouse concentrates the reader’s attention on the segregation and inequality of the Maycomb society. A place that is meant to uphold equality most definitely doesn’t and the examples such as the coloured balcony and comment from Judge Taylor about the verdict give evidence for this point. Racism prevents Maycomb from being a harmonious society and the people of Maycomb are not wanting to change and are resisting movement towards equality. The author’s purpose is to demonstrate the racist attitudes of the Maycomb society through the micro setting of the courthouse.
Different from the courthouse, the micro setting of the first purchase church display’s morality, and what good Christians should aspire to be. An example comes from Reverend sykes of whom is the church’s priest and quoted, “The collection taken up today and for the next three Sundays will go towards Helen - his wife, to help her out at home.” The technique Lee has used here is a Noun. The use of the Noun ‘Helen’ has an impact on the reader because using the first name of Tom Robinson’s wife (Helen) is very respectful due to the circumstances of the trial and the outcome. This shows the reader that even in the tough times the black community still uphold their respect and use their morality to do the right thing. Another example was when the coloured people said, “Negroes worshipped it on Sundays and white men gambled it on weekdays.” The coloured people use all their money to help towards a good cause such as helping out Helen and her family, but the white people use their money for their satisfaction. This demonstrates the good morality of the coloured people who help out their own no matter the cost. The white community claim to be good Christians through words but the coloured people are good Christians through actions. Lee’s purpose was to teach the readers that actions speak louder than words. She is also teaching us to never judge a book by its cover, “It was an ancient paint-peeled frame building.” The quote was said by Scout about the appearance of the church but when she went inside it was rich in morality, kindness and goodness of the people. This is a link to the civil rights movement because the black community is raising money for Helen, one of their own to help her out in her and her families time of need.
The Missionary Circle was a group of ladies from the Maycomb society who would get together and discuss the work of Grimes Everett’s missionary work around Africa. This micro setting exposed the themes of hypocrisy and racial discrimination. This example comes from Mrs Merriweather the leader of the missionary circle, “Mrs Merriweather large brown eyes always filled with tears when she considered the oppressed.” The technique used here by Lee is imagery. From this quote, you can paint a picture in your head of a woman crying after considering the poor people in poverty and injustice, “large brown eyes filled with tears.” But in fact, their missionary circle are blind to the poverty and injustice happening in their own society. They claim to be good people by trying to help the people in Africa but they do the complete opposite for the black community in Maycomb by racially discriminating against them. Another example comes from Scout who said, “Mrs Merriweather was certainly the most devout lady in Maycomb.” Devout meaning religious was the word given to Mrs Merriweather who also referred to Helen Robinson as “That darky’s wife.” The theme of hypocrisy is evident, the missionary circle looks credible from the outside but in fact, they are blind and ignorant to the poverty, injustice, and racial discrimination in their own backyard. Lee’s purpose was to teach the readers that not all people or organizations/groups who look good and fancy are morally correct which links to the theme of appearance vs reality. This shows that when we stereotype people we can lose our moral compass. Lee’s purpose also teaches the readers that we need to reflect on our own attitudes and make a change because we are just as bad as others if we do as society says is right.
Fourthly the mico setting of Scout’s school highlights the hypocrisy being taught to the children of the Maycomb society. “Over here we don’t believe in persecuting anybody.” The technique Lee has implied her is a statement. The use of this statement highlights the hypocrisy of the Maycomb society especially in the school where it is being taught to the younger generation. This hypocritical statement is said with no sympathy towards Helen Robinson and her family or the black community after Tom was shot 17 times. The teacher’s racist attitude is being shown in this statement. One such example comes from Scout who said, “How can you hate Hitler so bad and turn around and be ugly about the folks right at home.” Even Scout a 9-year-old girl can identify the racist attitudes and discrimination against the black community being taught throughout the school and in the Maycomb society in general. This quote shows the readers the hypocrisy through a historical view of WWll, which also puts the discrimination into perspective when comparing it to the Nazis. Harper Lee’s purpose was to teach the readers that Racism is a disease and that this disease can affect our moral compass. It causes us to lose our empathy and our ability to see that the humanity and dignity in others. Lee also shows the readers that racism is irritational and unjust. The readers are incited to change their own prejudice.
Lastly, the setting of Maycomb as a whole demonstrates the segregation between the black and white communities along with the racist attitudes they uphold. An example of this comes from Atticus who said, “why one sprig of nut-grass can ruin a whole yard.” The technique Lee has used here is a metaphor and symbolism. The nutgrass represents the racism in the Maycomb town and how a little bit of racial discrimination can ruin a society if not dealt with. The use of this metaphor is easily related to the racial discrimination in Maycomb as it is so widespread throughout the community just like the nutgrass. “Maycomb was a tired old town, grass grew on the sidewalks and the courthouse sagged in the square.” This quote is a perfect example of Maycomb being a non-progressive society that is stuck in the great depression. There is no real intention of progressing as a community and town. The author’s purpose is to teach the readers that once racism starts it is hard to stop it when dealt with in the wrong manner. Maycomb is deeply rooted with racism and this is obvious through the discrimination towards the black community for example having their own township, church, toilets, shops, etc. The Jim Crowe laws were laws of institutional racism towards the black community. The saying “separate but equal” relates back to the segregation between the two communities, but was a false statement. Lee tells us that racism is a ‘disease’ that affects everyone who is vulnerable.
In conclusion, the micro settings and macro setting were developed for the purpose to teach the readers about racial discrimination, hypocrisy, and inequality deeply rooted in the Maycomb society. The author’s message also links back to the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s and the Jim Crow laws. Lee grew up in this time and experienced all the commotion of American society first hand.