How Harper Lee presents the theme of prejudice in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Essay Example
How Harper Lee presents the theme of prejudice in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Essay Example

How Harper Lee presents the theme of prejudice in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Essay Example

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Harper Lee's book 'To Kill a Mockingbird' has many themes but a very large one of these is prejudice. Her book is focused around America in the 1930's and what people's attitudes were back then. Her book is written to influence people about the ways of prejudice, especially in the time it was written. She brings in to the book many different characters all with contrasting opinions. Through these characters he shows us how people see each other and the problems that it causes. This book tells us of the American state Alabama and a county with in it called Maycomb.

Harper Lee tells us this story through the eyes of a child, Scout. She uses this technique because a child has so many different opinions on life. It also shows the reader the innocence of a child at many times, e


specially involving the topic of prejudice. The character of Scout is developed through out the book as she faces many situations and there consequences. We meet many characters from all different races, her father (white), her housekeeper (black), her aunty (white. ) A character who is introduced to us as one of the key role models in Scout's life is Atticus.

He is portrayed as one person who is against prejudice and shows respect to every person. 'You'll get along better with all kinds of folk,' is something he says when explaining to his child. 'You never really understand a person till you consider things from there point of view. ' Atticus is a character who does not separate by colour or status i. e. class. Harper lee shows us Atticus's non-prejudice through the fact tha

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he has a black housewife Calpurnia whom he treats as a 'faithful member of the family.

This shows us how he regards other whether black or white. His character also portrays this when he defends a black man he states that if he did not defend him 'I couldn't hold up my head in town. ' Where as other characters such as Scouts aunt are not quite as lenient. This character created by Harper Lee takes a completely different view point to that of Atticus and therefore can have totally contrasting opinions. Aunt Alexandra is a lady who 'given the chance would exercise royal prerogative,' as she believes in being well-bred and mannered.

Her character is that of a strange one she doesn't really encourage prejudice but as soon as she arrives her character openly states 'We don't need her now,' when referring to Calpurnia and the fact that she is black in a white household. Aunt Alexandra is all about teaching Scout to be a 'lady' and how you should only mix with the right 'kind of folks. ' However we see her character change after a terrible tragedy takes place 'I can't say I approve of everything he does.. , but he's my brother. ' This quotation shows the reader how although someone can be tough on the outside they can easily crack.

Through the character of Aunt Alexandra we are also introduced to another type of prejudice, one of social class. The character of Aunt Alexandra is one who realizes how important status and family background is. We are shown this when she tells Scout how she should only mix with the right 'kind of

folks' meaning the ones of the same class. We are also shown how Maycomb feels that a group of characters called the Ewells disgraces there town. 'They were people, but they lived like animals,' was how these characters were described but also although they were the worst kind of white people you could meet.

Blacks were still worse than them, no matter how rich they were. Harper Lee shows the reader how being low socially results in being treated harshly and called different to everyone else. Although racism is the main form of prejudice highlighted through out this book another key one which furthers Scouts knowledge is through the character of Boo Radley. We are shown how prejudice is not only against black people but also against white as well. The character of Boo is one of a strange person who hides himself away from the county.

Harper Lee introduces this character as, he is an outsider. 'He dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch,' and 'what teeth he had were yellow and rotten, his eyes popped and he drooled most of the time. ' This is great way of showing the innocence of a child and also how untrue these descriptions are. Harper Lee shows us that prejudice can be wrong because at the end of the book we meet 'Boo' and he is nothing like the rumours. Harper Lee deals with prejudice as racism when we are introduced to the character of Tom Robinson.

As we know America 1930, meant a hard life for black people because of it being a racially hostile environment, meaning no fair rights for them. He is put

on trial for raping a white woman, and although we as the reader are convinced of his innocence he still gets prosecuted. 'I ain't ever seen any jury decide in favour of a coloured man over a white man,' this shows us how black people were assumed guilty of any crimes if it was a white individual who accused them.

There are many different forms of prejudice which are highlighted in 'To Kill a Mockingbird. The novel is written from a child's perspective which shows us how children deal with these situations and how there ideas change. The whole novel is based around the fact that you can not judge others by colour, race or status. The quotation used to sum the entire novel up is that you can never have an understanding of other 'Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. ' All of this shows us that Harper Lee's main message is to not judge a man by the colour of his skin or the life that he leads i. e. home and job.

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