In the book, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, racism proves to be a major theme. The touchy subject of racism has hung around the world for practically forever and has not ever fully ceased to exist in any society; it has only been toned down over time. Judging people on just the color of their skin, is a huge roll in this book just as it was in the 1900’s when segregation was flooding throughout the United States, as it is shown in the picture on the cover page.
Racism mainly occurs towards the end of the book and surrounds the trial of Tom Robinson, a black male accused of raping a white female. However, in chapter 8, Harper Lee explores the theme of racism through the symbol of the snowman that Scout and Jem build. The snowman consists of mud to begin with and Scout comments on it by saying, “Jem I ain’t never heard of a nigger snowman” (Lee, 72). Scout may not have realized she was doing it, considering that in that time it was common to refer to people of color in this way, but she was using a toned down version of racism by using the offensive word ‘nigger’.
Racism tends to occur because people like to stick to cliques, if you will, of others who are more like they are. For example, girls who have pale or slightly tan skin, dress quite similar, and have the same interests or hobbies in common tend to stick to hanging out with one another and form a bias towards people who are not like them. This is what creates the unacceptance of others into social groups. To Kill a Mockingbird is such a successful book because “Lee’s famous and only novel… [shows] the way things have been, not only in real life, but also in the artistic treatment of the era” (Parker). This statement shows that Lee was just trying to prove the point of what society was like growing up and showing the dislike towards others in a person’s community just because they have a different ethnicity than that of themselves.
People are affected everyday by racism and the harsh effects it has on them. It not only affects them mentally, but also emotionally and physically. Many people were beaten, and killed from harsh racism. The only reason racism has come around and still lingers is because people feel the need to make themselves feel more superior than another human and to make themselves seem like they are of more importance than anyone of a different race than them. It is just like what Atticus tells Scout, “nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don’t mean anything – like snot-nose.
It’s hard to explain – ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s favoring Negroes over and above themselves. It’s slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody.” (Lee, 107 – 109). He tells her this when he is giving her a lesson about how Racism works; as he is also teaching this to the audience. He informs us of the power of language and how it gives the person being affected, a feeling of shame. Although Atticus does point out that he, as everyone else should, is fighting for everyone, no matter what race they are, to have equality and feel loved by everyone in society.
Racism has always been a malicious disease throughout the world. It exists, as said by one man, because “At the heart of racism is the religious assertion that God made a creative mistake when He brought some people into being” (Hertz). He is stating that many people believe that God made them perfectly and that people of any other race, are screw ups and don’t deserve to be considered equal. This is why it got so out of hand when America was just forming. The whites coming into America would buy, trade, and sell African-American slaves to work on plantations.
Many of these slaves were malnourished, lived in poor conditions such as twenty or more people sleeping and living in a small shack, and were treated like animals. A good majority of these slaves died because of the harsh treatment they received all because the whites who “owned” them did not believe that they could be considered humans or deserved to have the same privileges and rights that they did in that time period. Thankfully, it has toned down from that, but there are still random outbursts of racism throughout the country and world. It will not go away until people learn that every single person on this planet is a human being and that being of a different ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation does not matter.
To Kill a Mockingbird is an amazing book to see the full view of how racism affected those in one’s society as they were growing up. It also makes a person realize how much of a big difference it can make in a human’s life being treated so poorly by others based solely off of the color of their skin. It brought the subject out in communities when people read the book and many finally realized what impact this had on everyone. Harper Lee’s message was spread and is still continuing to be spread today when students, teachers, and anyone else read the book. Although not everyone will take into consideration what it could do to a person when you make them feel guilty about being a different race, this book helps to remind them and engrains the message into their brain forever.
Hertz, Friedrich O. “Racism Quotes.” Thinkexist.com. <http://thinkexist.com/ quotation/at_the_heart_of_racism_is_the_religious_assertion/193632.html> Web. 5 Dec. 2012
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1960. Print.
Parker, Kathleen. “‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Exposed Racism.” Newsmax. Newsmax, 12 July 2010. Web. < http://www.newsmax.com/Parker/Parker-Mockingbird-Lee-Harper/2010/07/12/id/364362> 5 Dec. 2012.