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Summary: Harper Lee's Novel To Kill a Mockingbird overflows with many of life's important lessons. Three of the most significant lessons learned by Scout during the course of the story are courage, acceptance, and respect.
Atticus teaches Scout what real courage is through Ms. Dubose, for Atticus says real courage is, ."..when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway...(Pg. 112)." By analyzing Atticus' definition, courage can be seen in Atticus' actions as well as in Ms. Dubose. Scout sees a person with real courage, for Ms. Dubose portrays courage by cutting down on her medicine even though she knew it would be painful and unsuccessful. Scout sees and realizes the courage of her father after learning that courage is not ."..a man with a gun in his hand (Pg.112)." Scout learns that Atticus has courage because he knows the impossibility of winning the trial due to the racism in the town; nonetheless, he still goes ahead and defends Tom...
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Essay/Term paper: A study of the different types of prejudice depicted in 'to kill a mockingbird
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A Study of the Different Kinds of Prejudice in, "To Kill A Mockingbird"
Prejudice is the preconceived opinion of a person or thing. There are three main types of prejudice: racial prejudice, social prejudice and religious prejudice. These three are the types of prejudice most dominant in "To Kill A Mockingbird".
The setting for the novel is a fictitious town called Maycomb. This town is situated in Alabama, south USA. The racial prejudice shown in the novel has a lot to do with the town being situated in the southern United States. This is because there was a lot of racism in the southern United States in the 1930"s. This racism mainly originated from the civil war, which lasted from 1875 to 1883. The northern, more progressive states declared slavery illegal, but slavery was a vital part of the southern economy as the labour was cheap for the cotton plantation owners. Although the northern states made it illegal to have slaves the south still kept slaves illegally. This was the main cause of the civil war. The northern states won the war and the United States was formed. Even though they lost the war, the south passed their own "Jim Crow Laws" in the 1900"s making racial segregation legal.
The backwardness and narrow-mindedness of the community fuelled racism in Maycomb. These negative qualities account for the social and religious prejudices in the novel. The community"s narrow-mindedness is formed because the population has been unchanged for many decades with the same families occupying the town. This causes prejudice towards anything that is different from the norm. Maycomb is very backward and isolated due to the town being far from the river, which was the main form of transport in the early days. This confines the town"s development and leads to the social conditioning of the people this in turn helps to explain why there is social and religious prejudice. Maycomb people have very inward looking views and so these views are passed on from generation to generation.
Maycomb town is described well in chapter 1 as it tells us why the people are so insular and inward looking.
"Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town."
This statement puts a negative light on Maycomb and its people. The personification of the word tired emphasises the lack of enthusiasm, about everything, the people of Maycomb have. It also suggests an unwillingness and lack of desire to change this fact. "Tired" also indicates that the town is very monotonous and new concepts are not welcome. There is also the repetition of the word "old" which gives the impression of a dirty decaying town. This emphasises how old fashioned and backward the town is. The paragraph also describes how the town is not looked after by anyone.
"In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop"
This shows the slowness of the towns progression, as there aren"t tarmac roads only olden dirt tracks.
"grass grew on the side walks"
This shows neglect, as there is obviously no town caretakers employed by the local authority. This again reinforces the idea of the weariness of the town"s people. The description of the courthouse puts a negative light on the way the town is kept.
"The courthouse sagged in the square"
This again shows the peoples tiredness, as they don"t bother to fix the courthouse, to make it look as prestigious and glamorous as it should from the outside. There is complete lack of willingness to change things in Maycomb. This attitude helps the people to be prejudiced against anything different from their norm. This attitude is also influenced by the fact that Maycomb is a fairly financially poor place. The reason for this is mainly the depression in the 1930s where the agricultural areas of southern USA suffered severely. There wasn"t any money for maintenance as all the money was used to survive.
The community"s outlook on life is very insular.
"nowhere to go, nothing to buy, no money to buy it with,
nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb
This quote describes well the inward looking nature of the community and suggests their insular nature is a lot to do with the poor financial situation of the town. The end line also shows the town"s isolation from the rest of the USA and the remoteness of the town. The town is very old fashioned. This is shown when Scout talks about the "men"s stiff collars". The old-fashioned attitudes lead to the community being prejudice.
The poverty and lack of outside influence causes prejudice. Maycomb rejects outside influences because of the old fashioned views. The town"s backwardness is highlighted by the way in which there are no activities or past times in Maycomb except gardening.
"a day was twenty four hours long but seemed longer."
This is emphasised when Jem says,
"Don"t have any picture shows here."
These quotes emphasise the restricted and backward views the people hold.
It is apparent that the authorities do not wish for any outside interference, when during Scout"s current affairs lesson it is said that:
"few rural children had access to newspapers!"
This shows that there was no wish for the town to change. The outside influences would soon be expelled in later generations as the children are brought up to live by the insular views of Maycomb. This means that the prejudicial attitudes of the people in Maycomb would remain unchanged and unchallenged.
Religion is very important to the people of Maycomb as it means old ideas are maintained and there are no new influences.
The reluctancy toward new and different things is reflected in a statement told to the people of Maycomb.
"nothing to fear but fear itself."
The quote talks about how the town is ruled by its fear of new influences and ideas. It emphasises the way in which it is isolated socially and geographically from the rest of the world.
The poverty and inwardness means there are no modern influences. This means people are made to suffer in some way. A good example of this is when there is a fire at Miss Maudie"s house. As there is no accepted outside help the town"s lack of progression means there are not enough fire hydrants to put out the fire.
"and men tried to soak her house with hand extinguishers!"
The word "tried" emphasises the desperation of the situation. If the town allowed outside influences to help or to be welcome then possibly the economy would be a lot better. This would mean more hydrants, which would, more than likely, have saved Miss Maudie"s house. This shows the poverty and inwardness. An example of the backwardness is the fire truck.
"The old fire truck was killed by the cold."
The fire truck is so old it has to be pushed by the firemen. This was the only help as the relief truck was sixty miles away. This shows the backwardness of Maycomb, as they don"t have modern equipment because of poverty and the unwillingness to change things.
Another example of the backwardness of Maycomb is the telephone operator as she has one of the most important jobs.
"entrusted with issuing public announcements, wedding invitations, setting off the fire siren and giving first aid instructions."
This shows the backwardness, as they aren"t trying to move forward from using an operator all the time.
Maycomb is a very religious town with the foot-washing Baptists appearing to have a strong influence on the community. The foot-washers have very strict views and believe that anything which is pleasurable is a sin. They are therefore prejudiced against a great deal of people who are different from them with different opinions. An example of their prejudice is when Miss Maudie says,
"some of "em came out of the woods one Saturday and passed by this place and told me and my flowers we were going to hell?"
Their belief is so extreme they feel they should threaten those who are different. Scout is shocked by this as she thinks Miss Maudie is the "best lady" she knows. Miss Maudie is a good role model for Scout as she is not prejudice against anyone presented in the novel.
Another example of prejudice toward somebody is the isolation of the Radleys. This isolation is due to this family not attending church. They also don"t conform to other codes of behaviour. The Radleys suffer religious prejudice because of this and social prejudices because they keep themselves to themselves, apart from everyone else. The society sees church as a pastime and therefore pleasurable; as Mr Radley was a foot-washing Baptist he would not agree with attending church. The community seeing church as a pastime reflects their inward views and their narrow mindedness.
The isolation of the Radleys is emphasised by the unusual positioning of their house.
"jutted into a sharp curve"
This reflects how the town considers the Radleys. They are deemed strange by the community. This is because they don"t conform. They do not go to church. They do not socialise. Mrs Radley never attends Missionary circle and the house is always closed on Sundays. This shows the intolerance in Maycomb of anyone who does not conform to their rules and standards of behaviour. Boo Radley is treated with the most dislike as he has been to court when he was younger and was a troublemaker in a gang. Scout describes him at the beginning as:
"a malevolent phantom."
The use of the word "malevolent" emphasises the way in which they consider him evil.
Mr Radley is intolerant of others in his own way. This is reflected by the way he treats Boo. When he was convicted Mr Radley promised to look after him whereas the other boys in the gang were sent away. The boys who were sent away received a good education but Boo was punished by his father and began to be thought of as an outcast.
Prejudice in Maycomb is due to the snobbish and intolerant attitude towards those of a lower class. The Ewells are outcasts; they live on the outskirts of town.
"Maycomb Ewells lived behind the town garbage dump in what was once a Negro cabin
They are treated slightly better than the black people only because they are white. The location of the house shows their lowly place in society. The Ewells obviously struggled, as they had to scrounge to survive.
"Ewells gave the dump a thorough gleaning everyday."
This shows the Ewells extremely poor quality of life and shows how they don"t really look after themselves.
The town holds a lot of contempt for the Ewells because of the way they are.
"We"ll convict this Negro but get back to your dump!"
They are not looked well upon by anybody in Maycomb. Even Atticus, the most unprejudiced person in the novel doesn"t like the Ewells.
"The disgrace of Maycomb for three generations."
This shows just how much the Ewells are disliked. The long-standing prejudice, towards the Ewells, is experienced by people as young as Scout. She comments on one of the Cunninghams as not being trash, even though they are a lower class, because:
"He ain"t like the Ewells!"
This shows that the town is not prejudice toward the Ewells merely because of their class but also for other reasons. One of these reasons is the lack of dignity they display in the way they live.
"made the plot around the cabin look like the playhouse of an insane child!"
They also show little respect for themselves because they live purely off the state and do not attempt to help the bad reputation they have acquired.
"He"s one of the Ewells"
This quote refers to a younger member of the family at school. He is misbehaving and the others think of this as normal. He is just living up to the stereotype of a "Ewell".
Other lower class families are not treated with such contempt, as they are different from the Ewells. The Cunninghams are respected by Atticus and others.
"Never took anything they can"t pay back!"
The Cunninghams are proud, honest, poor but very independent. They don"t expect charity from the church or the government, in contrast to the Ewells.
"No church baskets and no scrip stamp."
Even though they lead respectful lives, snobs such as Aunt Alex are still prejudiced against them. She discriminates against them merely for being a lower social class. She also believes they are a typical stereotype.
"A nest of those Cunninghams, drunk and disorderly."
She continues her stereotype,
"there"s a drinking streak in that family a mile wide."
She doesn"t believe they are good people simply because of their inferior background. She is one of the most prejudiced people in the book. She judges a person by social class and not personal qualities. She states:
"Our kind of folk don"t like the Cunninghams"
This shows her personal narrow mindedness.
The town of Maycomb is prejudice against people simply because they don"t originate from Maycomb. Outsiders are treated with suspicion and contempt. The townspeople often have pre-conceived ideas about people from other parts of the country. This is shown in the apprehensive manner in which the children treat their teacher from North Alabama.
"should she prove to harbour her share of the peculiarities indigenous to that region!"
This again proves the community is very inward and insular. There are even stereotypes for people such as the teacher.
"North Alabama was full of liquor interests, big mules, steel companies and other persons of no background."
This shows the poor light in which people from another part of the world are looked upon by the community. This is the same even though the teacher is from the same state as everyone else in Maycomb. The prejudicial attitudes shown toward Miss Caroline contrast greatly with the respect shown to:
"Miss Blount, a native Maycombian."
The class treat Miss Caroline"s authority as a joke but when Miss Blount walks in they show great respect for her.
The white townspeople"s intolerance of other white people who do not fit their rigid codes of behaviour is nothing compared with the intolerance and prejudice exhibited in their dealings with the black people of the town.
The black community is segregated far from the whites, beside the town dump. This is a good example of how the white people view the black people. They see them as rubbish and so isolate them with the rubbish of the town. This shows how the whites see themselves as better than the black people.
The white community is fearful of the black community, because they are different.
"Hush your mouth! Don"t matter who they are, anybody sets foot in this house"s yo' company."
This quote shows how the blacks dialect and accent differ slightly from the whites. The quote also shows how the blacks use slang in their speech. This is a difference, which could form racist views among Maycomb.
The black community is shown great disrespect as they are given the worst places for buildings. Their houses are all in very poor conditions. They have only a place of hard ground for their church. This shows the white"s great disrespect for the black community"s dead as it is very difficult to bury them on hard ground. The black people of Maycomb are shown a complete lack of respect by the way in which the whites gamble in their church. The black community is also very poor compared with the white community. In their church they have the same service but limited materials.
"First Purchase was unceiled and unpainted."
"Pine benches served as pews."
"Behind the rough oak pulpit a faded pink, silk banner proclaimed God Is Love."
These quotes emphasise the black people"s struggle with money and getting things for themselves. The banner is obviously very old and they can"t afford a new one or even a coat of paint. They also don"t have a ceiling. This would make it very cold in winter months.
"There was no sign of piano, organ, hymn-books, church programmes-the familiar ecclesiastical impedimenta we saw every Sunday."
This quote emphasises how different the church was to the church Scout and Jem were used to. Scout"s immaturity is shown by the way in which she doesn"t understand how they are going to sing hymns as there are not any hymnbooks. She is not very open minded to the possibilities of how they could sing hymns. Even though she shows immaturity here she doesn"t hold any prejudice toward the black community like others in the white community. She shows maturity in the way in which she observes that the services of the black and white churches are the same except for the way the Reverend expresses his views more freely and the morning offering, which this particular morning would go to Tom Robinson"s wife and children. This shows a huge difference in the two communities attitude toward each other. Here the black community"s togetherness is shown where as the white community always seems divided in some way.
At the trial the segregation and the financial situation of the black community is again emphasised. It is shown by the differences in the food they eat and where they are made to sit at lunch. The whites sit in the shade, which would be a lot more comfortable than sitting in the sun like the blacks. The blacks must sit in one corner of the square in the sun and they aren"t allowed to move into the shade. The black community has sardines, crackers and Nehi cola for their picnics whereas the whites have completely different food.
"Washing down biscuit and syrup with warm milk from fruit jars. Some people were gnawing on cold chicken and cold fried pork chops. The more affluent chased their food with drugstore Coca-Cola in bulb shaped soda glasses."
This shows how the whites food is more expensive than the black community"s. The whites drink Coca-Cola where as the blacks can only afford a cheaper brand which Scout comments on as having "more vivid flavours" this shows how different it is compared with the more famous Coca-Cola brand.
The black community must also wait until all of the whites have gone into the courthouse and taken their seats. This again emphasises the way the blacks are segregated from the whites. This is shown further when the blacks are made to sit upstairs when the whites are allowed to sit downstairs. The blacks are also segregated in a very strange way as they have a separate section of the newspaper. This could seem ridiculous but it shows the heights the whites go to to segregate the blacks completely.
At the trial a character known as Dolphus Raymond is introduced. He is one of the most open-minded characters in the novel. He has children by a black woman and is not racist in any way. He is also fairly well off so does not struggle as much as the other people in Maycomb. He is seen as a social oddity because of his partner and children but mainly because he is supposedly always drunk.
"he"s got a Coca-Cola bottle full of whiskey in there"
Although everyone thinks there is whiskey in the bottle there is only Coca-Cola. Dolphus Raymond allows the town to think whatever they want because he believes that this helps the whites to understand why he lives the way he does. He is forced to pretend he is a social oddity because of the racist members of the community.
In the trial there is a lot of racial prejudice toward Tom Robinson. There is not a doctor present who could testify that Tom couldn"t have committed the crime because of his disability. This is so that Tom is definitely convicted just because he is black. With a doctor it would be easy to clear Tom of the charge.
"Mr Tate blinked again as if something had suddenly been made plain to him."
This shows how obvious it was that Tom had not committed a crime against Mayella Ewell. However Tom is convicted anyway because he testifies that he felt sorry for Mayella. This disgusts the white people in the crowd. He knows how the town is racist and is very nervous about how they will react to him.
"Tom"s discomfort was not from humility."
Tom knows that the white community will think it completely impertinent for him to feel sorry for Mayella because he is black and she is white. This is a good example of the racial prejudice in Maycomb.
When Tom dies during an escape attempt after being convicted, the white community isn"t sympathetic. They just dismiss it by saying he was just doing it because he was black. This shows the very narrow-minded attitude toward the black community by the rest of Maycomb.
"Typical of a nigger to cut and run."
The town doesn"t care about Tom or his family and just think that it was a typical thing for a black man to do. The town thinks he is cowardly to run away. They put it down to Tom being black.
"Nigger always comes out in "em."
This once again shows how narrow-minded and thoughtless the town"s attitude is. The town ignores what Mr Underwood wrote in the obituary where he tried to stick up for Tom. He said it isn"t right to shoot a cripple no matter what they are doing. He likens the death to that of songbirds killed by hunters.
"He likened Tom"s death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds."
This quote emphasises the Mockingbird imagery of Tom Robinson because he is killed for no real reason. Mr Underwood uses simple language so that the obituary is suitable for children to understand. He does this because, like Dolphus Raymond, he believes that the children of Maycomb are young enough to understand and maybe change the attitude in the future.
In "To Kill A Mockingbird" there are three main types of prejudice exhibited; social prejudice, religious prejudice and racial prejudice. The town of Maycomb has pre-formed ideas and rigid codes of behaviour. These codes of behaviour are imposed by the town"s people on each other. This often leads to the persecution of characters in the novel such as Boo Radley, Dolphus Raymond and to a lesser extent Miss Maudie. These people are often excluded by the society. This social prejudice leads to the exclusion of families such as the Ewells and the Cunninghams because they don"t conform to Maycomb"s belief of normality. They are treated like outsiders with suspicion and are stereotyped.
The religious prejudice in Maycomb leads to the persecution of Miss Maudie Atkinson by the foot washing Baptists.
Racial prejudice in Maycomb is constantly displayed by the white community toward the black community. The most glaring example of racism in the novel is when Tom Robinson is convicted of raping Mayella Ewell just because he dared to feel sorry for her. The result of this racial prejudice leads the people of Maycomb to be very hypocritical and have double standards. They say they have sympathy for other races in other countries but then they treat the ethnic minority in their town with great disrespect.
The prejudice of the town is produced from fear, historical context and their social conditioning. They are afraid because of ignorance and not being able to understand new and different things.
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