‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by renowned novelist Harper Lee, is about how prejudice and ignorance come together into a very hateful force and how one man had courage to stand up against injustice when there was very little hope. The novel also shows how prejudice was so strong in the southern states of America that it was able to blind the judgement of individuals. The novel introduces many themes like racial segregation, racial myth, society pressure, ignorance due to misunderstanding, corruption, social destructive taboo, revenge fuelled by hate and prejudice. All these themes led up to the arrest, trial and subsequent death of Tom Robinson, who was accused of raping a white girl.
It is very sad and disgusting to see that prejudice and racism are still very strong in today’s society. We can find evidence of racism in the lynch scene, where an attempt is made to hang Tom Robinson before a democratic trial is held. It is a deliberate act of taking justice into ones own hand and passing judgement before a fair trial. Also you can observe traces of racist thought influencing the reasoning power of many individuals and also how hate could cloud ones mind of reasonable thought. In this crowd mentality the individuality was lost or weakened. Jean-Louise Finch or otherwise know as Scout, amazingly calms the crowd down and disperses them. Her sincerity and innocence played a major role in destroying the crowd mentality, which was based on feelings of hate and revenge. By singling out Mr. Cunningham and talking to him about himself she unknowingly gave back his identity and humanity.
More evidence can be found in the courtroom, where racial segregation can be seen when the white people are separated from the blacks. The white people area allowed to sit up front, while the niggers have to sit on the balcony. Just because a person is different in colour they are automatically branded and called Negro. With that they are deemed to be like animals, the low of the lows in society, they cannot be trusted, they are thought to be untruthful, they have no rights what so ever and can be treated like dogs. This shows complete ignorance and prejudice in the mind; also this is a very good example of racial myth.
Another theme that strikes me is that of social taboo, which can be found in the courtroom scene.
Atticus Finch starts to talk about Mayella Ewell’s romantic attraction to Tom Robinson and how she broke societies unwritten law by trying to tempt a black man. When her actions backfired, in a desperate attempt to hide her guilt and the evidence that would be a daily remind to her of what she did that day, she fabricated her testimony. To rid her self of that daily reminded of Tom Robinson.
In the courtroom the prosecuting lawyer Mr. Gilmer is very prejudice towards Tom Robinson. In the book Mr. Gilmer refers to Tom Robinson as ‘boy’ undermining his word and showing Tom Robinson no respect, also something similar like this can be found in the lynch scene where one man refers to Tom as ‘what’ showing that Tom’s identity is not being acknowledged and that he is of very little significance. Tom Robinson seems to be quite smart in his responses to Mr. Gilmer, showing he is not dumb like many white people think. But Mr. Gilmer is infuriated by Tom’s answers and asks if he’s being impudent to him. The juries’ decision of guilty was absolutely profound, after all the evidence Atticus produced they still found Tom Robinson guilty. Social pressure and corruption appear in this scene, the jury was pressured to vote guilty because if they didn’t people would think that they chose a nigger over a white man.