Appearance Vs Reality in To Kill A Mockingbird: All That Glitters Is Not Gold

Categories: To Kill A Mockingbird

We’ve all heard the saying “never judge a book by its cover.” It’s a meaningful lesson that’s been repeated to us all countless times by our parents, grandparents, and teachers. The meaning of the words in the saying is more important than the words themselves. The saying stresses the importance of never judging a person by their appearance, as you have to see the point of view from their eyes before a judgment can be made. In the book “To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee, Arther Radley, Tom Robinson, and Dolphus Raymond are criticized by Maycomb’s society for their so-called “appearance,” which sets them apart from the rest of the citizens.

Told through the eyes of a young Scout Finch, the book is about an attorney, Atticus Finch, who fights against an all-white jury to prove the innocence of Tom Robinson, who is falsely accused of raping a white girl. The book also focuses on Arthur “Boo” Radley, who stays hidden in his home from the rest of Maycomb’s citizens.

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The book’s overall focus is on racism and false judgment. The first character judged by their appearance is Arthur Radley. He’s judged by Maycomb’s citizens for staying put in his home and never coming out into the public, but it’s his fear of society that’s keeping him locked in. The second character judged by their appearance is Tom Robinson. He’s judged for falsely raping Myell Ewell, but it’s his caringness towards others that got him killed in the first place.

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Finally, the last character judged by their appearance is Dolphus Raymond. He’s seen as an “evil man” who drinks all the time, but it's the fear of his secret coming out that encourages his ways of living a “drunk.” Therefore, the appearance of these characters leads people to judge them too quickly, but it's the reality that’s kept hidden.

Arthur Radley is judged by Maycomb’s citizens for staying hidden in his home, but it’s his reason for staying put that’s unknown to many. Arthur Radley lives a concealed life ever since the incident with his father. He is said to have stabbed his father in the leg with a pair of scissors after getting mad at him. Although he was placed in the courtroom jailhouse as a punishment, his father came and took him home. Several rumors about Arthur Radley have been spread throughout the town of Maycomb, Even though these rumors are false, people continue to spread them because they’ve never met Arthur Radley face to face. For example, in the book, after Mr. Radley’s death, Jem Finch, Scout Finch, and Dill are standing outside on the sidewalk talking about the Radleys. Dill asks Jem about Arthur Radley’s physical appearance. To answer, Jem Finch states that 'Boo was about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that's why his hands were bloodstained” (P ). As you can see, false descriptions of Arther Radley are being told. Everyone, including Jem Finch, has never seen Arthur Radley since the incident, but based on the rumors, he falsely predicts Arthur Radley’s appearance. It’s these types of rumors and stories that encourage Arthur Radly to stay hidden because he’s “scared” of coming out into Maycomb’s society. However, Arthur Radley’s true nature gets revealed when he saved Scout and Jem Finch from Bob Ewell. He risked MAycomb’s citizens seeing him because he cared for the children. Scout, afterward, got to meet Arthur Radley face to face. She realizes that all the rumors about him weren’t true. In reality, he looks just like everyone else, except unlike them, he’s a hero. If it wasn’t for him, then Jem and Scout would probably be dead. Towards the end, when Arthur Radley, Scout Finch, and Atticus Finch are sitting on the porch, Scout Finch goes over to Atticus to say “Well, it’d be sort of like shootin‘ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?' (P ) By this, Scout Finch means that Arthur Radley is just an innocent, defenseless, individual, who’s been treated unfairly by Maycomb’s citizens. People’s impressions of Arthur Radley have been based on the stories and false rumors citizens made up, but it’s his true identity that many don’t know about.

Tom Robinson is judged by Maycomb’s citizens for falsely raping and abusing Mayella Ewell, but it’s his selflessness towards others that led him to his doom. Tom Robinson, who is portrayed as a hard-working man, was accused by Mayella Ewell and Bob Ewell of rape and abuse. His fate was written when he set foot in Myella Ewell’s house to help her with a chore. He saw how lonely Myella Ewell was all the time, so he decided to help her out. However, he was moments late arrested by the police for falsely abusing Myella Ewell. What Maycomb’s citizens don’t realize is that Bob Ewell was the actual abuser and Tom was just an innocent man. Tom Robinson is looked at as guilty throughout the novel because of his skin color. For example, during the trial, Bob Ewell testifies that Tom Robinson was the abuser. He says, “Well, Mayella was raisin‘ this holy racket so I dropped my load and run as fast as I could but I run into the fence, but when I got disentangled I run-up to the window and I have seen. I have seen that black nigger yonder ruttin’ on my Mayella!” (P ) Bob Ewell claims that he heard Mayella yell, so he quickly ran to the house and that’s when he saw Tom Robinson. I think Bob Ewell’s testimony was more focused on black people than the rape. He emphasizes the words “black” and “nigger” to make it stand out to the jury that his daughter is a white girl and the man accused is black. The jury sees that Tom Robinson is a young, big, and strong man, so with those two words included in his physical appearance, they would think that it’s typical for a guy like Tom Robinson to do what he was accused of. The entire case is based on blacks versus whites. With all the racism involved, his whole appearance is constructed off a bunch of “disgraced” Ewell’s testimonies. Despite all these false statements and testimonies, Tom Robinson is a very loving and caring person. He is described as talking with a “soft husky voice,” which shows that he’s not a brutal man. Also, according to Calpurnia, Tom Robinson and his family went to her church. It's Tom Robinson’s kind heart that the jury didn’t get to see. For example, during the trial, when Mr. Gilmer asked Tom Robinson if he did odd jobs for Mayella Ewell for no money, Tom Robinson replies, “Yes, suh. I felt right sorry for her, she seemed to try more’n the rest of ‘em—” (P ) Tom Robinson is trying to say that he felt sorry for Mayella because she had no one else to help her with the chores. He also states that Mayella Ewell was always lonely. Despite Tom Robinson’s testimony, the jury still finds him guilty. His skin color plays a significant role in this case as it overpowers his testimony. Tom Robinson, with all the solid evidence presented before the jury, was still punished for a crime that he didn’t commit, due to his selflessness and caring towards others.

Dolphus Raymond is judged by Maycomb’s citizens for being drunk all the time, but it’s his secret they don’t know about. Dolphus Raymond is described as a drunkard throughout the book, as he had made bad choices in his life because he can’t think straight. One of his most known choices was marrying a black woman and having mixed children. Due to his appearance, he’s seen as an outcast compared to the other white citizens. An example of Dolphus Raymond’s appearance being judged and criticized happens when the kids are outside the court. Dill gets upset during the trial due to all the racism being thrown at Tom Robinson, so Scout takes him outside. While the two kids were talking about Dill’s reason for getting sick, Dolphus Raymond came and asked them to come over to him. Scout says “As Mr. Dolphus Raymond was an evil man I accepted his invitation reluctantly, but I followed Dill (P ). Scout calls Dolphus Raymond an “evil man” because she thinks that he’s always drunk. Her reason for saying this is because Jem Finch had told her earlier about Dolphus Raymond’s drinking habits. False judgment is being used here, as Scout criticizes him based on the rumor she heard. This changes later on as Dolphus Raymond tells them his secret, to make Dill feel better. Dolphus Raymond says that his sack is actually full of plain old coca-cola. In his explanation, he says “I try to give ‘em a reason, you see. It helps folks if they can latch onto a reason. When I come to town, which is seldom if I weave a little and drink out of this sack, folks can say Dolphus Raymond’s in the clutches of whiskey—that’s why he won’t change his ways. He can’t help himself, that’s why he lives the way he does” (P ). Dolphus Raymond is trying to say that he pretends to drink alcohol because it gives other citizens a reason for his ways of living. If people found out about his secret, then they would blame him for his actions. Scout, later on, asks Dolphus Raymond why he told them his secret. Dolphus Raymond says that he trusts them because of their children and they can understand it. In reality, Dolphus Raymond is different from most white folks in Maycomb, not because he’s a drunkard, because he’s one of the few non-racists in the town, but it’s these types of facts that are unfamiliar to others.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Appearance Vs Reality in To Kill A Mockingbird: All That Glitters Is Not Gold. (2024, Feb 11). Retrieved from

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