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To Kill a Mocking Bird – Characters Experiences of Racism Essay Sample

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To Kill a Mocking Bird – Characters Experiences of Racism Essay Sample

In Maycomb county, where Harper Lee has set her novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”, racial discrimination is unfortunately the social norm. By following the events of this novel, Lee invites the reader to understand that judging a person by the colour of their skin is unjustifiable. Of particular significance are the proceedings of the court trial where the characters Bob Ewell, Tom Robinson and Atticus Finch show this important moral message from different perspectives. Bob Ewell perpetuates racial discrimination by falsely accusing Tom Robinson, a black man of raping his daughter, Mayella. His allegations are taken seriously because “when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins”. The people of Maycombe willingly believe the worst of black people. It is irrelevant that the evidence presented in Tom’s court case proved that he was innocent and could not have committed this crime. The reader is shown that discrimination is unjust through the actions of Bob and the obvious prejudice of the jury. By placing her novel in 1930s, Lee is exposing the deeply rooted history of the civil rights struggle in Southern United States of America.

This is further emphasised by the suffering experienced by the casualty of Bob’s allegation. Tom Robinson is the victim of racial discrimination. Even though he is hardworking, honest and decent, Tom is a powerless object caught in an impossible situation. “A man ought to get a square deal … in a courtroom” is merely an ideal that does not extend to a “negro”. Not surprisingly, Tom becomes “tired of white men’s chances and preferred to take his own” when he attempts to escape from prison. The “seventeen bullets” used to stop him were not necessary and are further evidence of the prejudice that permeates throughout this society. For a human being, to be treated with such disrespect is deplorable. Harper Lee wants the reader to understand that Tom is wrongly judged by society according to the colour of his skin not by his actions. Despite his innocence being ignored by the jury, it did not go unnoticed. Atticus Finch, the lawyer defending this case, shows the entire courtroom and the town that Tom could not have performed the injuries that Mayella received because of his crippled left arm. These actions demonstrate that Atticus does not suffer from “Maycomb’s usual disease” of racism.

He shows courage even though he knows “you are licked before you begin but you begin anyway”. Atticus tells the reader he defends Tom because “if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head”. This means that he could not respect himself if he did not act to help a man who is being victimised simply because he is black. He believes in justice, tolerance and thus racial equality. Unfortunately, his actions expose him to the anger of the white community and thus he suffers because of his different views. Despite being shunned, the reader is invited to agree with Atticus’ values. He is the moral backbone that is missing from the arrogant and prejudicial community of Maycomb. Through these characters’ actions the readers is able to understand how racial discrimination within this community causes inexcusable suffering. The wrongful accuser is able to take advantage of the powerless victim who the righteous defender is unable to protect from the racial discrimination that infects the town of Maycomb. This novel is set in a time when these practices were common and regrettably unchallenged. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” reminds readers to question and necessarily accept what is considered social norms.

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