Self Respect and Injustice in Film "To Kill a Mockingbird"

Self respect is the feeling that one is behaving with honour and dignity. In the film To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch expresses a strong moral character which influences the way he acts upon his personal values. In contrast, Mayella Ewell covers up the injustice done to her due to her lack of self respect. Tom Robinson suffers a great injustice as a result of the prejudice of white people in the community. Despite this, he remains a true and honest man throughout his wrongful conviction.

The role self respect plays is crucial to how these characters fendure/witness unjustness. Harper Lee suggests that possessing self respect when presented with injustice allows an individual to not only endure it, but act upon their values.

Atticus Finch is a strong example of the role self respect plays when facing injustice. First of all, Mr. Finch accepted Tom Robinson’s case even though he knew he was going up against the racism and prejudice of the white civilians.

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He showed tremendous confidence and dedication in order to convey his beliefs. Second of all, before the trial, Tom was being kept in the city. Mr.Cunningham, Bob Ewell, and their companions plotted to break into the holding cell to hurt Tom. Atticus was informed about this and proceeded to the jail to protect Tom. If Atticus did not have pride in his actions or decisions, he would not have cared about the harm that Tom might endure. Last of all, Atticus exhibited self assurance when Mr.

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Ewell spits in his face. The attorney turns away with dignity and returns home which emphasizes his self control. During the court scene, Atticus reminds the jury that, “In [their] courts, all men are created equal”. This quote presents how Atticus Finch goes up against the white people to protect an honourable black man who has done nothing wrong and should be treated as an equal in the decision making. No matter how he is perceived by others, Atticus will stand up for what he believes is right. These points highlight upon Atticus’s ability to maintain his morale throughout the story.

In contrast to Atticus, Mayella Ewell demonstrates the significance of possessing self respect in all aspects of life. Mayella expressed how a lack of assurance when encountering injustice can lead to a lifetime of unhappiness. Firstly, Ms.Ewell would have sought assistance for the difficult task she was responsible for, managing the household. At 19, her future was set and she would continue to be harmed unless she reaches out for help. Mayella felt that she had no one to help her and lost all confidence in herself. Secondly, Mayella did nothing to stop the sexual and physical abuse that was provided to her from her father. Ms.Ewell would have informed the police if she had a strong self-esteem and was not afraid of her father. Lastly, Mayella forcefully tried to participate in sexual activities with a black man, which was unacceptable at the time the story took place. Ewell would not have engaged with Tom Robinson if she respected herself. During the court scene, Mayella repeatedly stated that, “[Someone] took advantage of [her]”. In reality, the individual that she was exposing was her father. If Ms.Ewell had respect for herself, she would not have lied to everyone about what Tom did. Several occasions in the film indicate that Mayella retains a lack of pride in herself.

Tom Robinson exhibits extensive self respect throughout the conviction despite the aggressive racism that the white citizens articulate. Before the trial, Mayella continuously invited Tom beyond the fence of the Ewell’s home to participate in chores. As a result of Mayella being presented with the burden of maintaining the household without anyone to help, Mr.Robinson felt sorry for her and proceeded to provide assistance at her house everyday without receiving pay. Another strong example is when Tom had enough confidence in himself to walk into the courthouse and go up against the word of two white people. He believed that if the jury heard his perspective, they would move past his skin colour. Tom knew he was a kind and honest man despite what everyone assumed about black people. If he did not contain self respect, he would have lashed out at everyone and it would have made it much easier for the jury to find him guilty. The county of Maycomb also expresses the significance that racism play in this man’s life. During the court scene, the prejudice that the community possesses proves to decide the fate of a black man’s life. The actions that Tom had sought out after the racist verdict of the jury were controlled which displays his surplus of self respect. The main conflict in “To Kill a Mockingbird” is summarized by this sarcastic quote towards Tom Robinson from a Mr.Gilmer, a white person, “You’re a mighty good fellow it seems--did all this for not one penny”. Mr.Gilmer and others only see a black man feeling sorry for a white woman, suggesting the idea that black people can not be put on the same plateau as white people. This quote magnifies the extent of Tom’s self confidence as he does not let anyone waver his beliefs and values. Throughout the film, Tom demonstrates self assurance that leads him to fight for his values and beliefs.

In the film “To Kill a Mockingbird”, the actions that are carried out by the characters correlate to their aptitude to unconsciously make decisions due to their level of self respect. Atticus is illustrated as a positive character who perseveres towards achieving his principles. On the other hand, Mayella chooses to endure all the harm and injustice brought to her without seeking assistance, which proves to negatively change her personality. Tom Robinson experiences multiple instances of preconceived opinions towards him due to his skin colour. This film signifies that self respect is needed to fight against injustice. Robert Kennedy reminds us that, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope”. This quote highlights the ideas that Tom Robinson and Atticus Finch display throughout the film. When confronted with injustice, the amount of self respect one possesses influences the actions they pursue to overcome the circumstance.

Updated: Feb 18, 2024
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Self Respect and Injustice in Film "To Kill a Mockingbird". (2024, Feb 18). Retrieved from

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