Harper Lee’s ”To Kill a Mockingbird” and Thomas Hardy’s ”The Sons Veto” Essay Sample
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Harper Lee’s ”To Kill a Mockingbird” and Thomas Hardy’s ”The Sons Veto” Essay Sample
Prejudice has caused the pain and suffering of others for many centuries. Some examples of this include the Holocaust and slavery in the United States. In To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee racism was the cause of much agony to the blacks of a segregated South. Along with blacks, other groups of people are judged unfairly just because of their difference from others. The prejudice and bigotry of society causes the oppression of people with differences. What was also apparent is the prejudice that people had to face when seeking to defend the rights of those minorities who were being oppressed.
Some who are discriminated against are those who are born differently than the majority. One person that is treated unfairly is Calpurnia, as you can see when Aunt Alexandra tried to get Atticus to fire Calpurnia, because in her eyes, Calpurnia wasn’t a good enough female role model (p.136). This is a prejudice action, because Calpurnia is as good as a role model as Aunt Alexandra, if not better. Calpurnia despite all the comments and prejudice against her carries on with life, whilst Aunt Alexandra has all the trappings of a white woman who thinks her position in life is preordained and everybody should know their place. If they do not then they are abnormal and should be subject to anger, which I would see as oppression and prejudice. Maybe Aunt Alexander was afraid that her view of blacks was wrong and that they were human beings after all and that was a frightening thought in the South.
Another person who is treated like an inferior is Scout. She is treated badly by her teacher, because she knew how to read. “She discovered that I was literate and looked at me with more than faint distaste. (p.17).” Scout is treated like it is her fault that she knows more than the average child did. She learned earlier than others so she gets punished unjustly. This is another example of people stereotyping people and the danger of the stereotype. Children cannot do certain things and if they can they are abnormal and will become subject to prejudice. One can see it in schools all over the world. The “Brainy” student who is subject to ridicule by his/hers peers. The ” thick” student again ridiculed and cajoled by his/hers peers and his/hers teachers. People who do not follow the norm are subject by certain elements to prejudice in one form or another
Tom Robinson is also one who is discriminated by a biased community. Tom is found guilty by the jury, in his case against the Ewells (p.211). The guilty verdict is a direct result of a racist community. Tom was never given a fair chance in the trial, even though that the evidence was proving him innocent. People that are born differently often get mistreated and are discriminated against.
Another group that is treated poorly in the society based on prejudice are the people who have chosen to be different. One who chose to be different is Dolphus Raymond. He pretended to be drunk so no one gave him any trouble on the way that he lived his life (p.200). The way a person lives should be there own personal business. He has the right to live differently than others if he feels that is the way he wants to live But the trouble is he knows that by marrying a black women, his society will condemn him, so he sees a way to avoid it in becoming a perceived drunk. In this way he deflects one form of prejudice for another easier to live with form of prejudice.
Another person that lives differently is Boo Radley. Boo stayed inside his house for a number of years without ever coming out to interact with others. He didn’t want attention that would come from the rumours that were said about him. Stories were made up about him and he felt it was best for him to stay inside. The people who chose to be different took a risk of being made outcasts of the majority of the society and one way of avoiding the prejudice of the world was to hide away from it. But in so doing he is not living a life he lives a self-imposed prison existence. So even in trying to avoid what is going on outside his house he is being punished.
The final group that was made to feel different was the group that defended and protected the minorities and the wrongfully treated people. Atticus was a good example of one who defended the different by defending Tom Robinson in his case. Atticus had integrity that gave him the strength to endure the ridicule that arose from his decision to defend a black man in a segregated area. Atticus was threatened and his children were treated poorly by their peers, because he had the courage to stand up for the oppressed. Sheriff Tate defends the different when he says, “I never heard tell that it’s against the law for a citizen t do his utmost to prevent a crime from being committed, which is exactly what he did, but maybe you’ll say it’s my duty to tell the town all about it and not hush it up. (p.276).” Sheriff Tate is trying to protect Boo from the attention that could frighten him. The sheriff is doing the right thing by hiding the truth from the community. By defending the different, people take a chance of being known as strange or inferiors to the rest of the people that they are around and in so doing become targets for prejudice which they themselves are trying to defend.
In Thomas Hardy’s The Son’s Veto. Prejudice is again highlighted, but in a different way. There are elements of social standing, family background, education, religion and sexism. The whole theme of the story is one woman’s, Sophy, travel through life and the consequences she has to live with because of the pressures of living in that period and the expectations made upon her by society.
She is a caring woman, who selflessly makes decisions based on other people’s feelings rather than her own happiness. She starts life as a maid in the vicar’s household, a servant but not much more She has no life other than that. There is a brief interlude where she walks with Sam, another villager of her social standing who would like to go out and marry her. She appears not to be to keen on this idea however after the vicars wife dies and Mr Twycott, the vicar decides to lose one member of his staff she selflessly volunteers saying that she will marry and live with Sam. Even though she admits when asked, ” Well – do you want to marry?” ” Not Much. But it would be a home for me. And we have heard that one of us will have to leave.” Mr Twycott who hadn’t consciously noticed her before, now looks on her tenderly because of what she is prepared to do, but not as equals but as an affectionate master to a wounded animal (What a kitten like, flexuous, tender creature she was! on a But after an argument with Sam she approaches Mr Twycott and asks him not to get rid of her. Because of her lameness and the way she has acted Mr Twycott states that he can’t let her go and asks her to marry him.
This where the prejudices of the world Sophy lives in conspire against her and ruin what could be a happy life.
The first is the veneration she holds him in, especially as he is a vicar, she does not love him but he is of a class where respect is automatic and to refuse a request was not even considered.
This comes from her upbringing where the working class teach themselves that the upper-class, gentry and the ministry are people above them in their lives and who are to be obeyed.
Equally Mr Twycott in the same way of thinking, realises that when he marries a working class girl his social standing within that community is ruined and he will need to move away to another part of the country where his wife and her background will not be known.
Even their son conspires to remind her of her lowly background with reference to her use of words “Have” instead of “Has”.
Even when MR Twycott dies and Sophy meets her old friend Sam, and she finds some happiness and some possible future, her own thoughts are not for herself but for her son who is at public school and who wants to go onto University and the Ministry. She decides for his personal standing, her marriage to a working class man and her living in a grocers shop will not help him. She decides to put her happiness on hold until he has achieved his aims. When he has, his prejudice and selfishness, in not wanting to have a working class mother and stepfather, keeps her away from happiness.
Randolph’s education and upbringing decree that he is the man of the house and she will do what he say’s. This sexism of the period is also shown when Mr Twycott arranged all the household finances with trustees, rather than with his wife,
Even religion plays a part in promoting these prejudices when Sophy has to swear n the bible not to marry Sam. This use of religion to emphasise prejudice has been used for ages to get people to believe, that which sometimes needs challenging.
The evilness of the prejudice in this story is highlighted by the final paragraph when Sophy dies and is going to be buried and Sam “whose eyes were wet” as the mourning coach passes was looked upon by the priest, who I imagine is the son with eyes “As black as Cloud”. Even in death there was no happiness.
Throughout both these stories prejudice, oppression and the forcing of someone’s will on others is the big factor. All these prejudices are a negative factor in the influence on people’s life. It has caused people to be hurt, maimed and killed. It has kept people in a world where they are oppressed and forced to live out lives that they have to rather than want to live in. In both stories the pressures that invoke this prejudice are all around the people. Religion, education, social class, upbringing, race, age, sex and history have conspired to give individual their stereotypes and with them the way to treat people.
These stereotypes and the prejudices they carry are very difficult to remove from people. When slavery was abolished in the USA, the south still regarded the Blackman as a slave, indeed until recently the Klu Klux Klan still treated the Blackman as a slave and because they did not play their part they were killed, tortured and frightened. I have used them as an example but equally all across the world the same thing is happening. In The Son’s Veto I see all the social prejudices ruin a good persons life. There is no hint of any fight to make things right and the despair of death is the only thing to look forward to. However in To Kill a Mocking Bird, there were people who tried to do the right thing and in their own way showed that there are good people in life who are prepared to try and make a difference.
Lessons can be learnt from both of these stories. The Son’s Veto showed me that we shouldn’t live our lives by the prejudices imposed on us. However, To Kill a Mockingbird showed me that the people with differences are not always doing things the wrong way. It is the majority that may be doing at it all wrong.