Paper Example: The Various Forms of Racism in To Kill a Mockingbird

Published: 2023-03-19
Paper Example: The Various Forms of Racism in To Kill a Mockingbird
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Racism Discrimination Kill A Mockingbird Themes Character analysis
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 1952 words
17 min read

Discrimination has been in existence since the civil war. Soon after the First World War, differences emerged, and in Harper Lee's classic novel "To Kill Mockingbird," there is a narration of the happenings during the Great Depression and how discrimination was evident between the black and white communities. Due to its instant success in the world of literature, a film adaptation was produced approximately two years later in 1962. The novel "To Kill Mockingbird" takes place in the fictional small town of Maycomb, Alabama. Using different complex characters, the novel centers around the protagonist lawyer, Atticus Finch, and his two children, Jem and Scout. Atticus was well known in Maycomb for representing African American clients. On one occasion, Atticus Finch represented an African American named Tom Robinson in a rape case, and the whole town was on edge. Tom Robinson was falsely accused of raping a white girl, and this propelled the animosity and increased the simmering racial tensions in the town of Maycomb. There is also the element of reverse racism, as witnessed in the case of Finch and his entire family in the process of defending Robinson. Robinson is seen as a scapegoat in essential issues compared to the charges made by Bob Ewell, and this raises the need to assess other issues of racial biases raised in the narrative. How does racism play a role throughout the novel, and to what extent does it affect the fate of the characters?

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Even though there are other forms of discrimination in the novel, racism remains the most dominant form of discrimination in the novel. For instance, Scout is mocked for being a tomboy, and this affects her self-esteem and her relationship with other characters in the novel (Lee 53). Scout and Jem were taken care of by their black housekeeper despite their different perspectives on certain issues. Even though there were differences in terms of their opinions and perceptions on life, Calpurnia, the housekeeper, still provided quality care and taught them how to live with others in society. The children did not believe that the housekeeper could make an impact on their lives because of her identity. Their decision was influenced by the people of Maycomb, Alabama, who mistreated the African Americans and violated some of their basic rights. In this context, there were some aspects of racism in Scout and Jem by the fact that they did not believe in Calpurnia. When they attended Calpurnia's church, they realized she could speak two languages and were amazed. "... The idea that she had another life outside our house was a novel one, to say nothing of her having command of two languages (Lee 143)".

During the time of the narration, Midwestern states like Alabama had to endure the effects of the Dust Bowl, which destroyed most of the crops. Because of this, most people in Maycomb were struggling financially and emotionally. Blacks were a source of labor in the farms but their wages were not justified. "Why does he pay you like that?" I asked. "Because that's the only way he can pay me. He has no money"(Lee 23). The nature of payment stresses on how racism dominated and also brings out the idea of how poverty shaped the minds of young children and how people had to improvise to survive with the low payments. In the text, the barter system was utilized when Atticus was given crops for payment of his services, which demonstrated that money was scarce. Most people were struggling, but it was even worse for African Americans due to Jim Crow laws. These laws were created with the specific purpose of separating the black and white people in the South. According to "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962): Lawyering in an Unjust Society, Atticus Finch, by putting an earnest defense forward, was violating the rules of the racially segregated community. One of the commentators narrates that "To Kill the Mockingbird" advocates for courage in the face of prejudice and outright racial remarks. The black community was always perceived as uncivilized and inferior. The description implied how different societies maintained stereotypical views of the black and how they were treated.

Racial discrimination against people of color dominated the 1930's to the extent that they were not allowed to interact and intermarry with the whites. The white majority were superior and exercised supremacy of the minority as the latter only engaged in manual jobs. According to the novel, this affected the blacks since they were the dominant ethnic population within the white society; there was a sense of oppression and slavery (Macaluso 282). Mr. Raymond becomes an outcast for working with a black woman who has a multicultural or interracial child. Because of this, Raymond is expelled from society because of doing something considered as the most radical act at the time. Having an open relationship with a black woman was considered a grave offense. Until the mid-20th century, there was a law that prohibited interracial relationships and marriages. Around the 1860s, the term miscegenation was introduced. Miscegenation means a mixture of races. The law that prohibited interracial relationships and marriages was introduced to enhance and maintain the purity of the Anglo-Saxon race. In this case, the relationship between black and white was a subtle issue around the time of the "Mockingbird." In a remote town like Maycomb, it was considered as an unacceptable act to go against the social norms, particularly concerning race. Raymond, aware of the consequences of his actions, avoids interacting with townspeople, and the only way he could manage this was to pretend to be a drunkard. People saw him as an outcast in society. Atticus was also shamed for interacting with the blacks even within his role as an attorney. His situation was, however, temporary because, in the end, Atticus is reelected to the state assembly.

The novel 'To Kill a Mockingbird' presents a racist America that was deaf to the plights and desires of the women, minorities, and nearly anybody who failed to meet the definition of "normal." On the other side of the black and white relationships, the blacks were seen and treated as sex objects, and this further justified why the black community was oppressed within the context of the novel. For instance, Mayella Ewell engages with Tom in an uncomfortable and sexual manner and tries to scrutinize Tom for being in a relationship with him (Smykowski 55). Even though Tom resisted her, there is inevitable suffering. Bob Ewell beats up his daughter and convinces her to testify against Tom; this provides evidence of yet another form of racial discrimination and prejudice. During the 1930s, racial segregation was at its peak, and black people did not interact with the white in any way. In case a black man was accused of rape, they were instantly lynched. Bob Ewell was aware of this but took advantage of the high level of racism of townspeople to acquire his freedom.

Atticus, as the moral character in To Kill a Mockingbird, stressed on how law and justice was used biasedly in the novel. The law was used to propel racial discrimination, as evidenced in Tom Robinson's case. Within the justice system, everybody should be accorded with equal respect, but the black community had designated sitting positions in court. There were elements of racial discrimination in this context. In Tom Robinson's case, Atticus provided valid and robust evidence to prove instances of lies. Still, since the jury was all white, they are blinded by the racial prejudice and ignore some of the most fundamental facts presented then goes ahead to punish Tom. The jury's decision was biased and influenced by the racial affiliation rather than the weight of the evidence provided in the court. The novel was written in the 1950s, giving a reflection of what happened during 1930, the same time as the Scottsboro trial in Alabama. As Tom Robinson was falsely accused of raping a white woman, the nine black men in the Scottsboro trial were also charged with rape (Miller 25). The incident created chaos in the justice system, questioning the integrity of the American courts. The nine black men were forced to spend years in jail while the case was handled. In the process, Atticus used all the available resources to free Tom Robinson, but in the real sense, there was no case since there was a false accusation. Racial discrimination affected the justice system and influenced how courts made decisions.

Even though the law was clear on the treatment of all people regardless of their races, the available historical facts and the narration in the novel shows that the justice system was biased, particularly for the black community. The jury, together with the society at large, failed to listen to Tom despite the fact that he lives an honorable life. They instead believed the words of Bob Ewell, a man known for telling lies (Osborn 1139). The jury and other people in Maycomb took his word because of his skin color. In the end, Tom is killed for trying to escape from prison; he believed there was no justice within the American court system at the time. However, there have been significant changes in the court system, and the verdict of a case is now decided based on the available evidence. Symbolically, Atticus advocated for justice and morality in society while Bob Ewell represented racial discrimination and ignorance. In fact, the name Bob Ewell was adopted from Robert Lee Ewell, who was a commander in the Confederate army (Casdorph 34). The army represented the slave states that advocated for the expansion of slavery and promoted racism.

Because of Atticus Finch's perception and relation with people of color, the family suffered most. Scout is criticized by women because of her physical appearance and as results get into a fight with other kids. The perception of other people affected her relationship with the father, who was only focused on ensuring she acquires education and grows in a particular manner. Jem, who was also influenced by the perception of society criticizes Scout for acting like a girl but not being girly enough. In this context, Jem's statements were influenced by other people's views and was not aware of the gender concept. The existing perceptions of gender troubled Scout but were influenced by reverse racism. Scout was academically ahead, and this was facilitated by Calpurnia, the housekeeper who helped with the homework and other academic assignments. Scout knew how to read in her class, but the students and teachers could not appreciate her talent. Instead, she is scolded for learning how to read before school. Because of reverse racism created by the family's relationship with the blacks, even the teacher could not manage the idiosyncratic nature of Scout. At the end of the novel, Atticus blatantly tells her children how the white supremacy has dominated their society and that as long as a person is black, there are low chances of acquiring a position or getting something compared to their white counterparts with similar qualifications.

In conclusion, Even though there are other forms of discrimination in the novel, racial discrimination is the most dominant in the novel. There are many instances of racial discrimination in the book that reflects on the actual instances that occurred since the civil war when people of color were sidelined from participating in many activities in the community. During the 1930s, racial discrimination was at its peak to the extent that interracial marriage was prohibited by the law. The white majority was superior and exercised supremacy of the minority as the latter only engaged in manual jobs. The novel has highlighted how this affected the black community since they were the dominant ethnic population within a society of white society.

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