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The Racist Attitudes Prevalent In “To Kill a Mockingbird” Essay Sample

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The Racist Attitudes Prevalent In “To Kill a Mockingbird” Essay Sample

In ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee, the theme of prejudice or racism is shown through many important characters in the story. Harper Lee especially uses Bob Ewell in this story; she makes him out to be the villain in many ways. Bob Ewell’s character is a poor white man who is racist towards all blacks and believes they have no rights compared to whites. Harper Lee uses him as a typical racist of that time and this portrays it well to her advantage. When she was writing, racism was still at large and many black people where executed and prosecuted falsely. When the novel is set, life in the southern USA was even harder as racism had reached an extreme high and this is shown in the novel through the court case and Bob Ewell once again. Bob Ewell hates all black people and is a key factor in the false prosecution of Tom Robinson as he lies to the court.

Anti-racist views were prominent in 1930’s Southern Alabama, USA. This is portrayed by Harper Lee the night before the trial begins. A racist mob wish to lynch Tom Robinson before he goes to court and the sheriff, Heck Tate, goes to warn Atticus:

“I don’t look for any trouble, but

I can’t guarantee there won’t be any”

The author is trying to indicate to the reader that even the law enforcers feel unable to stop racist acts. It is especially Harper Lee’s use of the word ” trouble” that gives the impression that the sheriff is either vague about what may happen, or he can’t face the blunt idea that the mob may kill Tom Robinson.

Sheriff, Heck Tate also talks of a lynch mob that wants to take Tom Robinson before the trial and kill him; this is pure racial hatred and an excellent portrayal of true life in the 1930’s by Harper Lee.

Even Aunt Alexandra shows her racist attitudes when she speaks to Atticus about it in front of “them”. By “them” she is referring to Calpurnia. Her use of this word suggests she feels Negroes should not be included in the family; she may even be suspicious of them. The word implies she has no respect for the black community as she cannot bring herself to say the word “negroes” as Atticus does.

The main ‘villain’ in the story, Bob Ewell is portrayed to be extremely racist. During the trial, Bob Ewell shows his views when he sits smugly looking at Tom Robinson as he is being prosecuted, basically showing a lack of compassion and also meaning he may be twisting the truth. Also in the trial he is racist towards Tom Robinson:

“I seen that black nigger

Youder ruttin’ on my Mayella”

It is especially the use of the word “Ruttin” which refers to Tom Robinson as an animal, he sees him as worthless and right less. After the trial Bob Ewell is still being racist, even after being proven wrong and lying he has no conscience and certainly deserves no respect which is exactly how Harper Lee feels about the real world so she transfers it directly into the book for the readers.

However, in the novel, the Ewell’s are described as “White Trash” which indicates that even though they feel they are lots better than blacks, but in fact many people believe that they are almost the same. “White Trash” portrays the Ewell’s as the lowest form of white people so actually they face slight prejudice from surrounding people which is almost as bad as the racist views the Ewell’s have.

The most significant voice against racism is Atticus as he tries to defend Tom Robinson a black man being prosecuted from the allegations of rape made by Mayella Ewell. This is illustrated particularly when he tells his daughter off for using the word ‘nigger’:

“Do you defend niggers, Atticus?”

“Of course I do, don’t say nigger Scout. That’s common”

“S’ what everybody at school says”

Also the ‘coloured balcony’ shows respect for Atticus by rising to their feet as he exited the court, showing a great deal of respect considering racial barriers.

Atticus shows a great deal of compassion for black people and true anti-racist views. Especially when his daughter questions him:

“You aren’t really a nigger-lover then, are you?”

“I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody”

As well as being very caring he is also trying to pass on his anti-racist onto his daughters.

Anti-racist views are also indicated by Miss Maudie, Dolphus Raymond, Jem and Scout. Miss Maudie emphasises that all races should be treated with respect and deserve equal chances. Also Jem thinks this and even confronts Miss Maudie about it:

“Why don’t you get a coloured man?”

This shows his innocence and also that he has his dad’s views on racism.

Jem is also particularly angry when he is at the trial and the verdict went the wrong way, he gripped the rail really hard indicating his anger toward the false outcome.

One of the most significant voices against racism though after Atticus is Harper Lee’s character Mr Dolphus Raymond; he is a white, rich man who doesn’t care about race in fact he even prefers the black people and proves this at the trial:

“Why’s he sittin’ with the coloured folks?”

“Always does. He likes ’em better ‘n us I reckon.

Lives by himself way down near the country line.

He’s got a coloured woman and all sorts of mixed chillum.

Show you some of ’em if we see ’em.”

Harper Lee has done well to put across Dill’s innocence towards Jem and Dolphus. This also shows an extreme anti-racist view from Dolphus in fact he has even had mixed race children, which was frowned upon by people in that generation.

Tom Robinson is convicted in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ because he is black and he has no rights compared to white people of that time, Harper Lee uses the racism in reality directly in the book and puts it across using select characters, particularly Atticus and Bob Ewell who are against each other all the way through the book exactly how it would have been in real life in the 1930’s, anti-racists versus racists and Harper Lee uses this well.

Robinson goes on to die as he tries to escape after his false verdict and death sentence. Harper Lee’s intension was to outline the fact that racism was a huge, horrible reality and she tried to use the anti-racist views of Atticus, Dolphus and Jem to inform people of how some people did fight racism. In particular, it is the voice of Atticus that truly shows strong anti-racist determination and that this is not a view which would have been greatly shared.

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