Justice is “the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause”(Dictionary).Harper Lee uses the theme of Justice throughout the novel To Kill a Mockingbird to express her opinions on the injustices of America at the time and to advocate ways in which they can be changed. At the beginning of the novel, Lee uses Scouts child-like perspective to make points about the injustices caused by misunderstanding and innocence. This is especially noticeable when Scout has a new teacher and is shamed for trying to explain the racial balance of Maycomb’s society to her. Although the attention of the narration is focused on Scout’s embarrassment and anger, this chapter is used to carefully show the way in which injustice can be done even by those who mean well if they do not understand the motives for someone else’s actions.
The majority of injustices can have consequences. Atticus says, “She was white, and she tempted a Negro. She did something that in our society is unspeakable: she kissed a black man. Not an old Uncle, but a strong young Negro man. No code mattered to her before she broke it, but it came crashing down on her afterwards”(Ch. 20).Atticus is implying that the real violation here is Mayella’s breaking of the code that says she cannot do anything sexual with an African-American man. Accusing Tom of rape is the closest the law can get to dealing with this transgression of society’s unwritten code. But is Mayella really to blame? Being attracted to Tom is not in itself wrong, though her society thinks it. Perhaps what is wrong is acting selfishly without any concern for the situation she put Tom in, and the consequences it would have for him.
Harper Lee then links the prejudice of Boo to the black community by introducing Tom Robinson as he mirrors many of the features of Boo. Tom is humble, gentle and defenceless but most importantly wishes no harm to anyone. It is this connection between the two characters that introduces the argument that the discrimination of the black community is as crude as that of a young boy that has had his way of life forced upon him. Harper Lee strengthens this argument in the trial when the jury convicts a clearly innocent man on the argument that only a white man can be trusted. Atticus says to Jem, “As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it-whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash”(pg.295). This quote shows that Atticus believes that everyone should be treated equally, despite the color of the person’s skin. This clear injustice forces the reader to question the jury’s motives and therefore expose to themselves the injustice their beliefs.
Throughout the novel Harper Lee uses Atticus as a spokesperson for her own beliefs. At every major development he is used to explain her opinions and views on how others and, ultimately, how we ourselves should be treated. This is very important to the novel as it allows Harper Lee to challenge our way of life and to provide an example of how we should live. The most important theme of the novel itself is that of the justice offered through characters like Atticus Finch, as they allow the reader to take away a different attitude on how to live their life and to make a difference to the real world.