Question 1: Analyse how one or more ideas were to comment on the aspect of human nature.
Harper Lee grew up in Alabama in the 1930s where she observed the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s to the 1960s.
In the author’s southern gothic novel ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, Lee uses the theme of discrimination to highlight the undergoing blatant racism in Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s.
She uses the setting to portray an image of the discrimination which makes emphasis towards the readers as they see examples of how entrenched discrimination is in Maycomb society. She highlights discrimination within Maycomb by using important micro-settings that uphold discrimination which include Maycomb School, the First Purchase Church, and the Missionary Circle.
The American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s to the 1960s was significant as it led to a major change in American society. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and others were a part of the public landscape as they fought for racial equality. Lee’s audience at the time would have been aware of this as they would have witnessed the 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 the important issues in a manner that was easy to understand and emphasised the possibility for positive change and racial harmony.
Unfortunately, 60 years later, despite improvements, America still suffers from racial inequality.
Discrimination was indeed very common in the southern parts of America where Alabama especially being known for its history of slavery.
Maycomb school is a place known for its hypocrisy as during one of their class sessions that they think that oppression of Jews is wrong because they “contribute to the society they live in” and are “deeply religious people” yet they take a blind eye to see that the black people in their community - which they oppress - are people who contribute like the Jews as well as are religious. Lee shows that racism is illogical in society, it causes unnecessary damage between communities and unreasonable injustice. Discrimination is taught within the school and many children within Maycomb grow to think that it is normal as the people which they group up around have adapted to having a toxic way of thinking about different people in their communities such as the black folk.
The First Purchase Church is another micro setting in the novel that shows discrimination as it is a holy place for the black people in the Maycomb community. “First Purchase African church was in the quarters outside of the Southern Town where it is segregated from the rest of of the town and on occasional nights is used by white folk to gamble, once again links to the theme of discrimination as African-Americans do are not settled amongst the whites.
As the Finch children attend mass at the First Purchase church with their maid Calpurnia, Jem wonders why they do not save money collecting money for hymn-books, Calpurnia responds, “Can’t but four folks of the First Purchase read.”
Education is not given to the black folk of Maycomb unlike how it is given to the whites, this again shows how Lee has highlighted her theme of discrimination by using it within the settings of the novel. These acts of segregation towards the black community has grown to be a norm for the white people of Maycomb as even sacred places - The First Purchase church by which the black community owns - is treated with ill disrespect and the people within it are belittled.
The Missionary Circle is a group of women who attend meetings and discuss their devotion to the church and also speak about their great sympathy for an African tribe going through tough times. Mrs Merriweather is an elder woman who leads the group who shows great hypocrisy as she gets worked up over the tribe in Africa yet turns a blind eye from African Americans in her community, “Mrs Merriweather’s large brown eyes filled with tears when she considered the oppressed.”
The Missionary Circle seem as if they are pure people who do good for the people in their community as they lead on Missionaries but are however ignorant to see the racism and discrimination in their community and take part within it as they refer to Helen Robinson, the wife of Tom Robinson - black man falsely accused of raping a young black woman - as the “Darky’s wife.” This shows the blindness of discrimination towards the black community as even though Mrs Merriweather and many other women with the Missionary Circle speak about how the feel bad about the oppressed outside their own community, they fail to consider their own within their community.
Discrimination today is still very common in American society, although worldwide, America has gone through many protests and riots for the justic and equality amongst people especially within the black community. Many white folk in Maycomb lack human nature, discrimination is seen in many aspects of Maycomb and are no different. Discrimination affects one’s way of thinking, no one is born to discriminate or be discriminated, many individuals and or minorities grow up within a toxic environment where acts of discrimination is seen as the “norm”. Harper Lee has commented about the idea of discrimination as well as racism by implying these themes in her novel and showing it within micro-settings showing that discrimination and racism can happen at any corner, any place and at any time.
Harper Lee’s novel ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ uses the theme of discrimination by highlighting important micro-settings that take place within Maycomb County. Lee uses Maycomb School, The First Purchase church and The Missionary Circle as examples of places that uphold discrimination within the town and how it is seen in different aspects.