Feminism and Racism in To Kill a Mockingbird Essay Example
Feminism and Racism in To Kill a Mockingbird Essay Example

Feminism and Racism in To Kill a Mockingbird Essay Example

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  • Pages: 10 (2481 words)
  • Published: December 21, 2021
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To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the America’s most read novels. It was published in 1960 by Harper Lee. It is primarily about growing up in the Southern parts of the United States in the 1930s under extraordinary circumstances. The story covers a span of three years, a period during which the main characters goes through a lot of changes and challenges. The narrator, Scout Finch lives with her father Atticus and brother Jem in Maycomb, a fictitious town in Alabama. Maycomb is a close-knit, small town. Every family in Maycomb has its own social station depending on their ancestral background. Both Scout and Jem understand their neighborhood and to the larger extent, the town. The only neighbor that the two does not understand is Arthur Radley whom they nickname Boo. Radley never comes outside of his hous


e. The children become obsessive of luring Boo outside.

The general setting of the story is in the fictitious Maycomb, Alabama. The specific setting of chapter 6 of the novel is around the town streets and houses specifically around Scout and Jem’s house, Miss Rachel’s fishpond, and Radley’s house. It was Dill’s last night in Maycomb and the three children had embarked on their obsessive quest of luring Boo outside of his house. This quest almost ends in a peril as the three children are shot at by Boo and Jem loses his pants in the process. The shooting alerted the neighbors who concluded that Boo was shooting at a “Negro” in his yard. This chapter brings out two major themes; feminism and racism. The chapter brings out the discrimination that women and the African-Americans went through i

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the Southern parts of the U.S.

Scout is portrayed as a tomboy. She prefers being in the company of boys and solves her issues using fists. Scout tries to make sense of the community which expects her to act like a lady, a brother who taunts her for acting like a girl, and on the other side a father who had accepted her just the way she was. Scout’s father was going to represent Tom Robinson, a black man who had been accused of beating and raping a white woman. Scout and her brother had to tolerate racial insults and slurs because of their father involvement in the trial. Chapter six of the novel brings out the idea that the society had set up standards by which all women were to conform to and also the idea that black people were discriminated against and viewed as second class human beings and even compared to dogs.

In the chapter, Harper is against how women were expected to behave by the society. She opposes the idea that there are certain roles that should be left to men. In the novel, Jem criticizes Scout for acting like a girl when she was against taking part in the “Boo Radley Game”. Jem tells Scout, “Scout, I’m telling you for the last time, shut your trap or go home-I declare to the lord you’re gettin’ more like a girl every day” (Lee 53). Furthermore, the two boys, Jem, and Dill do not want to let Scout participate in the game because they feel that it is dangerous for a lady. This brings out gender inequality. Even though Scout is a girl, she

is still being discriminated against for acting like one. This shows that in 1930’s being a girl in the Southern United states was not the best thing to be. Women were seen as being of a being lower class and had very little value in the society. Being called “a girl” was even taken as an insult.

Harper was only trying to put across the situations that women went through in the 1930’s. During the 1920’s and 1930,s women in the United States and particularly in the southern parts of the U.S. were treated very differently from men. Women were seen to be inferior to men. Women only received the right to vote in 1920. Although they were now legally “equal” to men, men still viewed them as inferior. The women were supposed to take care of the house and the children. It wasn’t easy for them to get any job. In case they got a job, they were criticized for doing so as it was believed that the jobs belonged to men.

It was considered that the jobs were too dangerous for women as they were weak. But then there are those who stood by women and encouraged them to take up jobs. There were posters that portrayed women to be being equal to men and that they should take up work. For instance, the Rosie the Riveter poster which called women to work in the 1930s (Miller n.p) In chapter 6 of the novel, Harper uses Scout to bring out the idea that women were equal to men and that they were capable of doing anything that the men could do. Scout is capable taking

of taking part in the “Boo Radley game” despite the fact that her brother Jem tells her that the game is dangerous for a girl and that she was acting more like a girl.

The chapter also brings out the idea that men did not take into consideration advice from women. They thought that women were too weak and scared to do anything. Scout tries to advise Jem that they should go home instead of going to peep into Boo Radley’s house. But then Jem does not listen. Instead, he calls Scout “Angel May” and tells her to go home (Lee 52). The fact that Scout was a lady made Jem and Dill not to listen to her reasoning although it was the best thing to do. In fact, at first, they didn’t want to tell her where they were going. They lied to her that they only wanted to go for a walk. Dill said, “I know what, let’s go for a walk.” They felt that since Scout was a girl she did not have an opinion on the matter. This was the situation in the Southern States in the 1930s. The men made all the decision. Women had to obey them without questions. In the novel, Harper used Scout to fight against this discrimination as Scout argues with Dill and Jem about the idea of going to peep in Boo Radley’s house.

In 1930’s education for women was a controversial issue. The belief was that women should get married and take care of the children. Their place was at home and that they did not require any formal education to take care of their homes.

The community was against women education as they felt that educated women were less likely to marry or they took so long for them to marry. They believe that school deluded the women’s minds into believing that marriage should occur between equals. The society was of the opinion that educations made women think that they were equal to men and, therefore, abandon their roles of being a mother and a wife and start competing against men. Women who went to school we considered “unsexed”. In chapter 6, Harper brings out the women’s need for education. The chapter begins by pointing out that it was Dill’s last night in Maycomb for the summer. “This was his last night in Maycomb”(Lee 51). Scout, Jem, and Dill were to go back to school. This shows that despite Scout being a girl, she was attending school. The chapter brings out the idea that Harper believed that women were supposed to be allowed to go to school.

Another issue that Harper was trying to put across in Chapter 6 of the novel is the issue of racism. Being an African-American in the United States especially in the South was not easy. Even though Abraham Lincoln had freed all the African Americans from slavery in 1863, it was not until in the year 1865 that the emancipation proclamation was enforced by most of the southern states in the union. In the 1930s, racial discrimination was still a common thing in Alabama. Right up to the 1960s there were policies that allowed for segregation of facilities for the white and black people under the “Jim Crow Laws”. There was a separation of facilities

such as toilets, schools, restaurants, and waiting rooms for white and African-Americans. For instance, there were separate trains for the Whites and African Americans (DPLA (a) n.p). In chapter 6 of the novel Harper brings out the racism that existed in Alabama in the 1930’s. Boo Radley shot at Scout and the boys who ran away. The commotion had alerted people. Miss Maudie believes that Radley had been shooting at a “Negro”. She says “Mr. Radley shot at a Negro in his collard patch” (Lee 55). This shows how badly African Americans were regarded by the Whites.

Even though Miss Maudie had not seen who Mr. Radley had shot at, she quickly concluded that it was a “Negro”. The African Americans were even compared to dogs. Miss Maudie continues, “Next time he won’t aim high, be it a dog or a nigger” (Lee 55). Harper portrays that the African-Americans were treated like second class citizens and that they would even be killed by the whites like dogs without caring. The black people were viewed as thieves. No one suspected that it was Scout, Jem, and Dill that Mr. Radley had shot at because of the fact that they were white. Despite the fact that Jem had lost his pants in the process, no one suspected the three children. They quickly accepted the lies about Jem losing his pants from playing a poker game. It would have been a different matter if the kids were African Americans. The people would have quickly concluded it was them because there was a general belief that African Americans were thieves.

One reason for the segregation of the Whites and the African-Americans

in the Southern States was the belief that amongst the Whites, that the African American men were rapists and a threat to the white women. A lot of white men would live with African American women but then it was considered scandalous for an African American man to live with a white woman. The black people could even be accused falsely of raping white women so as to bring out the point that the black men were sexual predators. For instance, in 1931 groups of nine African American teenagers were falsely accused of raping two white women on a train in Alabama (DPLA (b) n.p). The blacks were normally denied a fair trial. Harper tried to put this point forward through the fact that Mr. Radley was ready to shot at a “Negro” as he was not worried about the outcomes. He knew that the court would rule in his favor; that is if there was a trial at all.

When Miss Maudie says that Mr. Radley was shooting at a “Negro”, the other people are satisfied and disperse without any concerns. This indicates that the people in Maycomb did not care much about the African American’s lives. They do not make any further inquiries. For them, shooting an African American in your yard was okay. The African Americans were seen as lazy and drunk. The Southern States were the worst for the African Americans and most of them migrated to the Northern States. White people in the Southern States still viewed the African Americans as slaves. The black people were subjected to very bad facilities, hate, and violence from the White people just because of

their skin color. Groups like Ku Klux Klan had emerged and made the life of the African Americans much harder. Such groups believed in and fostered the white supremacy. Harper was trying to condemn racial segregation as later in the novel we learn that Scout’s father was representing Tom Robinson, a black man who had been accused of raping a white woman. The children had to deal with racial insults from the White people because their father was representing a “Negro”.

Chapter 6 of the novel brings out issues of women and racial discrimination. What Harper does no talk about in the chapter is that although all women were discriminated against, black women were treated worse that white women. White women were far better off. In fact, African American men were treated worse than the white women. The race was considered before gender. It was common for white women to be given better-paying jobs than African American men. Harper did not try to differentiate between gender when portraying racism nor race when portraying women discrimination. She was trying to put across the idea that all women are equal and that, therefore, there was no need of fighting for the rights of white women and abandoning that of the black women. Scout is only accused by Jem of behaving like a little girl in general and not a girl of any particular race. Harper did.

Chapter six of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird brings out the idea that the society had set up standards by which all women were to conform to and that the African American people were discriminated against and viewed as second class human

beings and even compared to dogs just because of their skin color. The Southern States were the worst. Women were not given equal opportunities as men. They were expected to marry and take care of the home. They were discriminated in obtaining education and at work. They didn’t have a right to an opinion. The black people, on the other hand, received the worst treatment. The Jim Crow Laws allowed for segregation of facilities. They received facilities that were in bad conditions. The African Americans were also accused of being sexual predators and were normally denied the right to a fair hearing. Those who stood for the rights of the African Americans received racial insults from the White. Later in the novel, when Scout’s father represents Tom Robinson, a black man who had been accused of raping a white woman, the children had to endure racial insults and slurs. Things would come to change in the U.S. later on during the civil rights movements where women and people of color were given equal rights.

Works Cited

  • Digital Public Library of America (a). "An Image Of A Jim Crow Rail Car “For Negroes Only,” Fayetteville, NC, 1929.". Dp.la. https://dp.la/primary-source-sets/sources/646
  • Digital Public Library of America (b). "A Photo Of Scottsboro Boys’ Mothers, May 19, 1934.". Dp.la. Retrieved from: https://dp.la/primary-source-sets/sources/652
  • Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. NY: McIntosh and Otis Inc. 1960.
    Miller, Howard. "We Can Do It!". National Museum of American History. 2016. Retrieved from: http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_538122
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