Racism And Courage As The Main Themes in Harper Lee’s to Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird is a memory box preserving the sentiment of a kinder and courage America, through a named Atticus.

The novel by Harper Lee was published in 1960, and is told through the eyes of a 6-year-old, Scout Finch. The book is told with humor and warmth despite the mature themes that developed through the duration of the novel, it examines themes such as rape, injustice and inequality. The novel is set in Maycomb, a small tied country town in Americas south during the great depression.

The town has a majority white population with a sense of white superiority, further ingraining their racial assumptions on the black population. Scout is introduced to the prejudice and social inequality within her town pretty early, on her first day Scout see it first hand when Walter Cunningham doesn’t have food and money for his lunch. Scout and the other child see this clearly but doesn’t understand the reason for this divide.

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Scout’s innocence leads her to believe that everyone should be treated the same, this sentiment of equality is true, but during this era it was almost impossible to be seen for your morality and not just your race. The novel encompasses many minor themes which are sentimental such as age, love, importance and gender however the main theme of the novel were racism and courage.


One of the main themes throughout the book was the theme of racism. During the great depression the black community were simply invisible to society.

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They were subject to injustice and segregated from the white community, this is evident in the court room where by the blacks where physically segregated on the top floor, while the whites were on the ground floor. During the novel Scout learn the differences between the two races and why thing was the way they were. Racism is portrayed heavily throughout the novel by all different characters and scenes, but it was the court case scene that that unveiled the extent of discrimination in Maycomb. Tom Robinsons conviction was purely because he was black defending against a white accuser. The evidence presented was so great that the only factor that could have found him guilty was his race. This quote by Atticus "given; said Atticus ' tom Robinson’s a coloed man, jem. no jury in this part of the world’s going to say; " we think you’re guilty, but not very: clearly represents Atticus’s thoughts on the trial and the result before the conviction had taken place. In his quote he explains how the only reason for this is because tom is a colored man and how no judge or jury will side with him.

Another quote / dialogue in the book that exemplifies the racism within Maycomb is when Scout asks her father Atticus what the term "nigger-lover" is and why people use it to offend each other. His reply to her question is excellent and further more expresses his views on racism. "Scout," said Atticus, "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." "You aren't really a nigger-lover, then, are you?" "I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody... I'm hard put, sometimes — baby, it's never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn't hurt you." In this dialogue between the two Atticus answer Scouts question and shows her clearly on which side he is on. He shows to her that a few words made by a foul with no knowledge of the black people has no significant. This quote also illustrates to us the discrimination faced by Maycomb residence for even just liking or being associated with the black. As well as this it expresses to us clearly the scene of an innocent girl confused about the use of derogatory terms and so wants her father to restore his use of the term nigger-lover. Throughout the novel Scout learns to never let anyone judge for her what is wrong and what is right, she uses this judgment when she convinces her father to be a nigger-lover.

Courage through the novel we also explore the theme of courage this is illustrated in many forms, both moral and physical courage. Atticus shows great moral courage when he chose to take on the case of Tom Robinson, considering the fact that Tom is African American and was refuses by all other defendants in Maycomb. Mrs Dubos also show incredible courage while she was fighting her morphine addition in order to be free before she dies. Atticus not only showed moral courage but also demonstrates physical courage both when he killed the rabid dog, and when he was faced with men outside the jailhouse. Jem as well exhibits bravery in the novel, on their way home Robert Ewell attacks the children, Jem shows bravery and tries to protect his sister but in doing so he broke his arm. Robert Ewell shows the most faint-heartedness in the entirety of the novel he not only lied to protect himself in the court room but he also prays upon young children in the darkness of the night.

Atticus teaches both his children that to be courageous you don’t need to be violent, to him violence doesn’t show strength but indeed weakness. Atticus exclaims to Jem after the death of Mrs Dubos this quote “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” In this quote he teaches Jem that courage can come in more ways than just one, or two, it’s not only moral and physical but it can also be persistence in difficult times and events.

The novel To Kill A Mockingbird is a truly amazing, it explores the ideology of hate prejudice, injustice, and racism. Through the themes and experiences of Scout and her family we learn the extent of these issues in America during this era. There are many minor themes represented in the novel but the major ones are racism and segregation experienced by the black community as well as the courage demonstrated by Atticus, Jem, Mrs Dubos and Scout, all displaying these in their own ways. Scout and Jem learn a lot about the society and its perception as they live through it. This novel may have been published in the 1960 but the issues and themes still roam around today and will most likely never die.

Updated: Feb 22, 2024
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Racism And Courage As The Main Themes in Harper Lee’s to Kill a Mockingbird. (2024, Feb 19). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/racism-and-courage-as-the-main-themes-in-harper-lee-s-to-kill-a-mockingbird-essay

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