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Racism was a very large part of society in the south during the 1930’s. Many colored people were thought of as less than their peers. Whites were considered better than African Americans were, and almost every white person accepted the unjust judgment. Racial discrimination hit hard in the south. Many of the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird were impacted by racial discrimination but the one that was impacted the most was Tom Robinson. In To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee uses Tom Robinson to highlight racist attitudes in the 1920´s Alabama when Tom was accused and killed by people that thought he was guilty only because he was black.
The blacks had no voice and were often oppressed by a white male. Even though slavery was abolished in 1865 the white people kept their racist views of being superior to the black community. In the eyes of the whites, black people would never be seen as equal. Although the times of slavery have been over for 70 years, during the times of the book is in the 1930’s, Lee portrays there to still be tension between whites and blacks.
However Lee also shows the progression of racism during the trial case of Tom Robinson. In the past, a black man on trial accused of anything would always be seen as guilty in the eyes of a white jury, regardless of the circumstances. The jury would be characterized as wearing blinders for they would not look at the evidence and would use someone’s colour of skin to determine a verdict.
In Robinson’s case it was the exact same. Yet it took the jury a very long time to come to the final verdict of having Tom be seen as guilty. In Atticus’s mind, this was seen as a victory. Since the jury debated on whether or not Robinson was guilty, it shows them trying to see past the blinders and trying to make a more informed decision. But through the loss of the case, Lee shows how society still has a long way to go before racism can be abolished. Hopefully, in the generations to come these steps towards a racist free society can be made. Harper Lee shows this hope through the young character of Scout Fisher.
One of the protagonists, Scout Fisher is a symbolic representation of the hope in the future she represents. Although Scout is only a young girl at the age of 7 years old, she is able to understand that racism is a terrible cycle that needs to end. Through her intelligent and humble father, Scout learns the harsh reality of how the color of someone’s skin can define their future and abilities. “I think there is only one kind of folks. Folks.”. Through this statement it shows Scout believes that the color of someone ‘s skin should not define them. Scout is a young Alamban women who is surrounded by a racist community. This also parallels the author, Harper Lee. Lee grew up as a tomboy with older brothers. She was born in 1926, Scout was also born around this time. The story is told in first person by Scout, in whom Harper Lee lives through as she has had similar experiences with the racism in the southern states being that she is a young, white girl with the same viewpoint. Lee’s background allows her to relate on a more personal level to the characters, especially Scout. This allows a reader to feel a deeper connection with the characters. As they are able to be written more in detail due to Harper Lee’s extensive knowledge and personal connections on the themes of the novel. The author also uses symbolism, circular plot, and irony to take the novel to the next level. It allows the reader to read between the lines and add depth to the novel.
The symbolism and irony in the book is evident through the title. The title’s significance is the innocence of a mockingbird. Normally, a mockingbird is an innocent animal who does nothing wrong. A mockingbird is known for it’s sweet melody and innocence. Due to this, when someone is to kill a mockingbird, they are killing someone who is innocent. The jury parallels someone who is killing something that is innocent. The jury forces Tom into prosecution and ultimately death. This also parallels what happens at the beginning of the story when another death almost occurs. A mockingbird at the beginning of the story is almost shot by Jem. Tom Robinson is symbolic of this mockingbird, as Tom is also shot at the end of the novel. These two events create one of the circular plots in the novel. During the first event , Atticus explains how it “…is a sin to kill a mockingbird” this indirectly implies that what the white jury did by prosecuting an innocent man and putting im in harm ‘s way, is a sin. Scout adds that it , “…was the only time [she] ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something.” . This quote shows the significance in Atticus’s mind that hurting something that has done nothing wrong is a misdeed and an immoral act. Just these two events allow for many different connections to be made and through them, the reader is able to learn the life lessons Lee explicitly gives.
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