Being one of the major themes in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. Good vs Evil is portrayed throughout the book in numerous occasions. However we do believe that the topic is missing a component, because of the way it is represented. This whole story is around the co-existence of good and evil, rather than them being separate things. There are countless scenes where both these factors are depicted in one character or setting. We have chosen to explore good and evil, in one person and in different places too.
Firstly we have the most obvious situation of Boo Radley. Firstly depicted as an evil presence to the town, he is late revealed as kind fellow. When he was young, Boo got in trouble with the police, and therefore his family keep him locked inside. Since he doesn’t participate in town events the town make up bad rumours as reasons for his absence. It is because of these reasons that Arthur is portrayed as an evil character. But all of this is false, as Boo is a kind man at heart. A long quote near the end of the book explains Boo’s point of view through Scout’s mind. She links their movements to seasons and realises that they are almost like him children. ‘ Fall, ….his children stopped at an oak tree delighted, puzzled and apprehensive. Winter, his children shivered at front gate… . Autumn again and Boo’s children needed him.’ Firstly, he leaves gifts for the children in the oak tree as they take them puzzled but delighted.
When Boo left them gifts, the children wondered what they meant, and whether they should take them or not. Initially thinking it was someone’s hiding places, they figured out that Boo was leaving valuable things just for them. Also when Miss Maudie’s house burns down, Scout and Jem are left shivering in front of the Radley’s house. It is Boo in fact that secretly comes down and wraps them in a blanket without any of the children realising. This shows that he really does care about the children’s wellbeing. Then the most evident scenes when Boo is ‘good’ is when the children get attacked by Mr Ewell. Boo comes down and fights of Mr Ewell, possibly killing him, just for the children. He saved their lives and it really shows that he treats them like his own children. This is when ‘Boo’s children needed him’. Boo Radley is indeed a good character, originally said to be evil, but is actually good. This I the fist place where good and evil are linked to the one person.
Secondly Maycomb as a town demonstrates good and evil as well. Maycomb County is a town filled with mostly friendly people. They are very close to each other and know everyone well; this is proven as Scout is quoted saying “no one needs introduction while talking in the phone, in Maycomb everyone knows everyone else’s voices well enough”. Their closeness might be reasoned from their ever-recurring social activities such as such as what is faced by Atticus who is “related by blood or marriage to nearly every family in the town” Besides that, they are very cooperative and help each other whenever problems arise. This shown when Miss Maudie’s house catches on fire, as the onomatopoeia “muffled scurrying sounds” gives the idea that everyone in the neighbourhood (including Mr Nathan Radley who very seldom mingles with others) wakes up from their midnight sleep to help to save Miss Maudie’s belongings and to put out the fire.
From here, it is very obvious that the strong relationship of the people in Maycomb County leads them to be very sociable and helpful people. But on the other hand Maycomb has its bad points too. They also face “Maycomb’s usual disease”, which is prejudice. Their closest prejudice victim’ is Boo Radley, who is shunned from the society just because he is very different from them a very mysterious and reclusive man. As they had never really known anything about Boo, they spread bad stories and rumours about him. Things are worst when any small crimes done in Maycomb are said as Boo’s faults. Even if it is already revealed that the real culprit is ‘Crazy Eddie, mutilated chickens and pets are still said as Boo’s doings .’ Indeed, Boo is merely an innocent; he has never done any harm to anyone. Overall, the residents’ helping hands, outgoingness and prejudice demonstrate the co-existence of good and evil in the society.
Good and Evil also co exist in Maycomb school. The school in Maycomb County is build with good intention: to provide the children of Maycomb with good education. This is proven by the introduction of the new teacher, Miss Caroline, and the new educational theories of John Dewey (which Jem had mistakenly called as “Dewey Decimal System” as in page 20). They are newly implemented into the school to improve the literacy level of the students of Maycomb County. The school had also provided the children with useful knowledge. Jem, for instance, had learnt lots of things from the school and one of it is about the Egyptian culture (page 59). They also care about the children’s welfare as Miss Caroline asks Burris Ewell to go back home out of the fear that he might cause other students to have cooties (pg. 29). But now we must cross over to the evil side.
The teachers’ rigid commitment to the ignorant educational system can become very cruel’ to the students. This is especially true when Scout is prohibited from reading and writing in Miss Caroline’s class because according to her, Scout is not supposed to know how to do so during first grade (pg. 19). This is considerably cruel as her teacher’s action can kill Scout’s potential intelligence. Besides, the educational system is very ignorant too, as it is not designed to suit the background and needs of children of Maycomb County. This is very undeniable as Miss Caroline constantly told them imaginative stories when the students are, ironically, “immune to imaginative literature” (pg.18). This would later results in the ineffectiveness of the education, which explains why “most of the first grade had failed it (the first grade) last year” (pg. 18).
Fourthly, we have the case of Mrs Dubose. Both evil and good qualities can exist in a character; one obvious example is Mrs Henry Lafayette Dubose. Mrs Dubose is an old lady in the neighbourhood who is disliked by almost everyone for her meanness and rudeness. “Neighbourhood opinion was unanimous that Mrs Dubose was the meanest old woman who ever lived.” (pg. 39) She is very rude, even to children, to an extent that she had never spoken nice words to anyone and nothing could ever be done to please her. Even if Scout just said’ Hey Mrs Dubose’, she would reply with’ don’t say hey to me you ugly girl! You say Good afternoon Mrs Dubose!’ (pg. 110). Moreover, her bigotry attitude towards the black community is very evident. Unlike other people from white community, she clearly shows her disagreement towards Atticus’s decision to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, by directly insulting Scout and Jem.
Her rude dialogues, as an example, “Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for!” (pg. 113), prove her stereotyped view and belief: it is against the norm for a white man like Atticus to help and mingle with the black people. Despite these bad qualities, she also has a good quality which deserves respect: her heroism. Mrs Dubose is actually a morphine addict who eventually decides that before she dies, she no longer beholds to her addiction (page 123). She is brave enough to struggle against the pain and fate of her life by stop taking the drug and start listening to Jem’s readings as a distraction, although she knows this would make her weaker. Her courage to fight the addiction and die free from it makes her a real hero. Mrs Dubose’s meanness, rudeness and heroism prove that good qualities do co-exist with bad qualities in a character.
Next we come to one of the most famous scenes, the court scene. Tom Robinson is a black man who is wrongly accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman. In this event, Atticus’s will and efforts to fight for justice of the innocent, Tom Robinson, is very appealing, in spite of the fact that he knows that he had less chance to win this case. His excellent skills as a lawyer have enabled him to successfully point out to obvious evidences of the falseness in Ewells’ claim. Mayella’s hesitance to answer several of Atticus’s rhetorical questions such as “Who beat you up? Tom Robinson or your father?” (page 207), the revelation that Mr Ewell is left-handed and the revelation that Tom’s left hand is dysfunctional clearly show that the possible culprit who causes bruises on the right side is actually Mr Ewell, not Tom Robinson.
Despite of the obvious evidences, the jury still charges Tom Robinson as guilty; this is emphasized by the repetition “Judge Taylor was polling the jury: “Guilty… guilty… guilty… guilty…”‘ (pg. 233). This situation happens simply because Tom Robinson is from the black community, while the jury, judge and the Ewell family themselves are all from the white community. The racial prejudice that exists in the courthouse has made most of the people there view Tom Robinson as a criminal, just because of his skin colour; this is just why justice is denied to him. To cut short, the racial prejudice and the aim for justice that exists together in the courthouse symbolizes the co-existence of good and evil. Where Tom and Atticus are good, and Mr Ewell’s, Mayella Ewell and the jury are the evil.
The final major example of good vs evil is when Jem and Scout get attacked after the Halloween parade event. Instead of in a place or person, it is demonstrated in an event. On their way home Scout and Jem get attacked. Initially they don’t know who it is, but it is later revealed that Mr Ewell tried to kill them. Mr Ewell is the evil person here as he tried to harm the children over his wrath for their father. The children were completely innocent. (pg 296) Atticus says ‘ I thought he’d got it all out of me the day he threatened me. Even if he hadn’t I thought he’d come after me.’ The right thing to do was for Mr Ewell to go to Atticus, never to the children. Then we come to the good presence. Boo Radley came out and fought Mr Ewell, potentially killing him for the safety of the kids ( shown in the ‘Boo Radley paragraph’. A perfect example of where evil and good go against each other , and where good wins
Good and evil can coincide and no one understands that more than Atticus Finch. On the last page after reading Scout a book she says ” … Atticus, he was real nice ‘, and he replies by saying ‘Most people are Scout when you finally see them’. It proves that he does believe that if one lives with sympathy and understanding, then it is possible to retain faith in humanity despite its capacity for evil. Atticus Finch is able to appreciate the good qualities and understand the bad qualities in everything. Hence, it is just equally important for us to balance the good and evil qualities in our life because as the saying goes, we should not let the goodness to be destined to be defeated by evil.