Inequality and Injustice in If We Must Die and To Kill a Mockingbird

Categories: To Kill A Mockingbird

Inequality and injustice are seen in many ways through the lens of race, with many People being oppressed just because of their race. In the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, racism is shown in the court system during the trial of Tom Robinson. As well as in the real-life trial of the Scottsboro boys during the Scottsboro Case when nine African American boys were falsely accused of raping two white women and had to live through the horrible racist trials.

Both of these examples show racial injustice through the legal system, with unfair and unlawful results of these cases based on the color of their skin. Not only is Inequality and Injustice seen through the lens of race, but it is also seen through people of certain social and economic class. In Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, two migrant workers travel from place hoping to find work, and attempt to achieve their dream of owning their own farm.

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However, they struggle with the circumstances of being migrants workers in this era during the Great Depression. Finally, inequality and injustice affected African Americans psychologically, people who once had nothing to fear, now had to fight for equality. In “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar, he describes the fear that African Americans now had, and how they had to adapt to this racist environment. In “If We Must Die” by Claude Mckay, he talks about how Blacks must not accept this racism and must fight for equality between Whites and Blacks.

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In To Kill a Mockingbird Tom Robinson, a black man, is accused of raping Mayella Ewell, A white girl. During the trial, Atticus presents the judge and jury with plenty of evidence that clearly showed Tom’s innocence, however, the racism present in the courtroom resulted in the ruling of guilty. One of the key points of evidence that showed Tom’s innocence was the disability that he had, “I can't use my left hand at all. I got it caught in a cotton gin when I was twelve years old. All my muscles were tore loose.”(186) It’s clear that Tom couldn’t have hit Mayella, he couldn’t use his left hand. But the racism in that courtroom led the jury to ignore that critical piece of evidence. Atticus makes a great case but he just can’t fight the racism in the courtroom, “I saw something only a lawyer's child could be expected to see, could be expected to watch for, and it was like watching Atticus walk into the street, raise a rifle to his shoulder and pull the trigger, but watching all the time knowing that the gun was empty”(282). Previously in the book, Atticus is the one brave enough to walk up to the dog and shoot it. This is reflecting that idea, Atticus has the gun, and is aiming directly at the dog, who in this case represents the case and convincing the jury to say Tom is innocent. However, Atticus doesn’t have the ammo to shoot the dog, just like he can’t change the racist minds of the people in the courtroom. In the real-life scenario of the Scottsboro Boys, there is a lot of racism shown through the unfair and unequal court and systems of the law present during that time. Originally the 9 boys were all punished severely without even getting a case. Haywood Patterson was sentenced to 75 years in prison, Clarence Norris sentenced to death, as well as many other unfair and unequal racist punishments. (Scottsboro). These sentences showed the flaws that were in the system and the American Communist Party sent their best Lawyer, Samuel Leibowitz, to defend the boys and set them free. Leibowitz fought hard and when the boys were still given unfair sentences he repealed the sentencing and got another case. (Scottsboro). However, like the inequality and injustice that is seen in To Kill a Mockingbird, The boys were still given unfair sentences. The inequality and injustice in the courtroom in both of the cases in because of the race of the defendants. The racism present during the time period was present in the room, and neither Atticus nor Leibowitz could ever change that.

Another way that inequality and injustice are shown is through social and economic classes. In John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men two migrant workers, George and Lennie, travel around looking for work. However, they struggle to get enough money to achieve their dream because of the working class that they are stuck in because of the Great Depression. George and Lennie know that they have nobody to go back to so they must persevere through the struggles, “Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place… With us it ain’t like that. We got a future” (13). George is talking to Lennie about how bad their situation is, but he believes that they are different, that they can achieve their dream. During this time the poor stayed poor and so many migrant workers traveled from place to place getting minimum pay wherever they worked. This is really similar to the idea of Marxism, the haves, being the white, rich, landowners, exposing the have-nots, who are the migrant workers struggling to live during this time. This injustice is seen through the social and economic class, with richer people, taking advantage of the poor migrant workers.

Finally, inequality and injustice are shown through the physiological lense when looking at the two poems “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar and in “If We Must Die” by Claude Mckay. These African Americans were affected physiologically from the way that they were treated by other people. In “If We Must Die” Mckay talks about how this treatment has affected people and that they should rise up, “Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack, Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!”

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Inequality and Injustice in If We Must Die and To Kill a Mockingbird. (2024, Feb 12). Retrieved from

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