- 18. September 2018
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Course name:Modern English Literature
Order subject:The theme of justice in To Kill a Mockingbird
"Remember, it is a sin to kill a mockingbird":
An Analysis of Justice in To Kill a Mockingbird
In the United States of the 1960s, racial tensions and divisions dictated the norms of society. This is the company that Scout, Jem, and their father Atticus live at in To Kill a Mockingbird. The story revolves around Atticus and his children dealing with backlash from Atticus' legal defense of a black man accused of raping a white woman. The concept of justice, racism and equality in this novel was one of the most timeless representations of the subject in classic literature of the last century. Lee's symbolism of the mockingbird as representing innocence continues to be used in popular culture and literature to this day. This image of the mockingbird represents the end of innocence, since killing a mockingbird would mean the destruction of innocence and therefore of justice. In this story, some of the characters could be the mockingbird, like Tom or Boo Radley, and their positions in society show how harsh reality was for those who were not seen as part of the accepted norm. In Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, the theme of justice is presented in three main parts of the plot: the discrimination against Boo Radley, the treatment of Atticus's family when he defends Tom, and the nature of the trial of Tom.
Boo Radley is a character who represents the injustice that many people suffer simply for being misunderstood by society. In a world where people are quick to judge themselves based on superficial circumstances, people are quick to discriminate against those who deviate from the norm. To Kill a Mockingbird shows this when the novel company turns Boo into a monster that hides in his house because he is too afraid to show his hideous face. Throughout the story, Boo intrigues Scout and Jem as they have heard rumors about him and how creepy he is. In reality, Boo Radley is simply misunderstood and has been put on trial by the town for being a recluse afraid of the outside world. Boo Radley has a mental disorder and has been confined to his home for decades (Orsborn 1139). At the time, most of American society did not understand what mental illness was or how to deal with it. So many people who have suffered have had to do it in silence and have not been taken seriously, thus ignoring their real problems and giving rise to prejudice and discrimination. Boo struggles with these ideals because his parents have decided that the best way to deal with his mental illness is to lock him up in his house for life, leading to the idea that he is a creepy, creepy monster that roams the neighborhood. haunted. However, this backfires as Boo simply becomes a recluse who doesn't function as a normal adult and instead takes care of the children in order to experience life through them. Boo bonds with Jem and Scout to the point where a relationship and understanding is formed, and towards the end of the novel, Scout begins to realize that Boo is protective of the children and can consider them his own children. He leaves small gifts for the children and secretly gives Scout a blanket when they are out in the cold one night. Eventually the kids start to trust him and treat him like a normal person and in return he helps prevent them from getting hurt thus showing the true reality that he is a good person and just fell victim to unfair bad attitudes. Boo Radley is the one who saves Jem and Scout when they are attacked by Bob Ewell. Scout states that he "gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, some lucky pennies, and our lives" (Lee 373). She expresses the fact that Boo gave them these gifts, including saving their lives, and yet he is not evil. The night after the attack, when Atticus puts Scout to bed and she sleepily recounts the story he told her, he comments that the main character turned out to be nice and they just didn't get it. Atticus replies, "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them" (Lee 376). In this final dialogue, Atticus's words summarize how Boo Radley was wrongly perceived as the victim of a discriminatory injustice.
Atticus is treated very harshly by the white public for defending a black man at a time of segregation, and they disagree with him even though he is a court-appointed attorney. The townspeople continue to judge Atticus for his position and lose respect for him because they don't believe a black man should be considered innocent in any way. Also, Scout and Jem become outcasts due to their relationship with him when they realize that the townspeople treat them differently. However, these are children who love their father and do not fully understand what is happening. During part of the trial, Scout tries to resolve this situation and realizes that she didn't choose to defend Tom, it's her job. She says: “The court has appointed Atticus as her defense attorney. Atticus wanted to defend him. He didn't like that. It was confusing" (Lee 218). Her innocent mind is trying to figure out why people are angry with Atticus, and she doesn't quite understand the racial attitudes that are responsible for this treatment. She tries to understand racism, but because she doesn't see the world that way, she has a hard time figuring it all out.After the trial is over, Jem and Scout are outside the house when Mrs. Rachel tells them "danger is coming" (Lee 290).Scout soon realizes what's the danger: "This morning Mr. Bob Ewell stopped Atticus at the corner of the post office, spat in his face, and said he'd get him if it cost him the rest of his life" (Lee 290). It is at that moment that Scout and Jem really realize how hateful people are and that their lives are truly threatened because Atticus is determined to prove Tom's innocence. Bob calls Atticus a "nigger-loving bastard" ( Read 291) and hates him for defending a black man against him. Even though Bob is actually d whom he beat up his own daughter, he refuses to let go of the fact that Atticus defended Tom; Losing the case would mean that Bob lost to a black man, which would mean that he would be an embarrassment to society. Bob is defensive because he feels that Atticus's defenses against him have threatened his family's position in society (Osborn 1140), even though that family is inherently inferior. At the end of the novel, after the trial is over, Bob attacks Scout and Jem for being Atticus's children. Bob is the epitome of pure evil: the fact that he is described as a "huge figure" indicates that Lee sees him as less than human (Murray 79). By describing him this way, he dehumanizes him and makes him appear monstrous (Murray 79), conveying the idea that he has been evil all along and that evil has supposedly triumphed over good up until now. Her intention is to kill her with a meat cleaver, but Boo Radley saves her from her. Although the children have done nothing wrong, they are associated with his father, and the negative treatment Atticus received now extends to his innocent children.
Tom's trial is extremely significant in representing the theme of justice, as Tom's entire story is based on the injustice he suffers due to racism against him and his search for justice in court and to prove his innocence. . However, since he is black and is going through the situation of a white family, the entire white population of the town assumes that he is bad and committed the crime. This is due to people's negative views of African Americans in the 1960s and the racial divisions that arose. When Scout and Jem learn that Tom is likely to be sentenced to death even though he didn't kill anyone, they are outraged. Atticus tells them, "Tom Robinson is a black man, Jem. No jury in this part of the world will say, 'We found him guilty, but not guilty,' on such a charge. It was either an outright acquittal or nothing" (Lee 294). At this point in the story, the children learn that racial differences have not left Tom without a chance to prove his innocence due to prejudices in the minds of the townspeople. Simply put, black men have never been adjudicated in doubt and have always been found guilty despite evidence to the contrary. He goes on to explain, "When it comes to a white man's word against a black man's word in our courts, the white man always wins" (Lee 295). This could be seen as a social commentary on the unfairness of the times, especially since Atticus acknowledges that this is wrong but that he can't do anything about it. Whether Atticus himself is a symbol of justice is arguable because he stands up for Tom despite the repercussions that come from knowing Tom is innocent. Atticus is a person who genuinely believes in justice no matter the consequences, and he tells Jem:
"As you get older you will see white men cheating on black men every day of your life, but let me tell you this and remember: as long as a white man does this to a black man, it doesn't matter who he is, how rich he is is, or what a good family he comes from, that white man is garbage” (Lee 295)
Despite everything, Atticus believes that racism is to blame for injustice in the world, and he educates his children so that they understand this and can continue to be good people. Tom is eventually convicted, despite the fact that "the story told by the prosecution is absurd and Atticus tears it to pieces" (Osborn 1141). This is because racial prejudice has triumphed; the jury is made up of all the white men who, with their white peers, stand over the innocent black man. In fact, many of the white men who attended Tom's trial had already been involved in a racist lynching (Murray 79), so the odds were stacked against him the entire time.
The theme of justice appears in To Kill a Mockingbird through Boo Radley, the threats to Atticus's family through racism, and Tom's search for justice through his trial. Racism and discrimination are the causes of injustice in the novel, and the negative attitudes of the townspeople are representative of people living in the United States at the time. Lee's use of the mockingbird as a symbol of innocence demonstrates that if you continue to silence the voices of the truly good or innocent, the concept of innocence will die and evil will win. Through her portrayal of various stories of her as the ultimate idealization of justice, Harper Lee shows that Black Americans have been the victims of grave injustice and prejudice in an age of racism and division. The fact that Tom was wrongly accused but convicted simply because the jury consisted of white men who were already part of a lynch mob shows the pent up odds of the time. By bringing these issues to the fore, Lee played an important role in shaping the history of racism in America and the origins of the ideas of the civil rights movement that would soon emerge.
Leer Harpers. Killing Hope 1960. Nueva York: Grand Central Publishing, 2010.
Murray, Jennifer. "More than one way to read a mockingbird (incorrectly)". The Southern Literary Journal 43.1 (2010): 75-91.
Osborn, Jr., John Jay. "Atticus Finch – The End of Honour: A Discussion of How to Kill a Mockingbird". University of San Francisco Law Review 30 (1996): 1139-1142.
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Justice is an important theme in To Kill a Mockingbird , in which Scout confronts difficult truths about bias and racism within her community. She learns that while the courts can be a potential source of justice, there are also other ways of achieving justice outside the courtroom.How is justice represented in To Kill a Mockingbird? ›
In Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, the theme of justice is shown in three major parts of the storyline: the discrimination against Boo Radley, the treatment of Atticus' family while he defends Tom, and the nature of Tom's trial.How does Atticus relate to the theme of justice? ›
No matter who Atticus puts in danger he treats everyone fairly. Atticus shows his children how to respect people and treat them right no matter what the other person does or says to them. Atticus symbolizes equality and justice not only in the courtroom but outside of the courtroom.What are the 3 main themes of To Kill a Mockingbird? ›
- family life.
Atticus believes in justice and the justice system. He doesn't like criminal law, yet he accepts the appointment to Tom Robinson's case. He knows before he begins that he's going to lose this case, but that doesn't stop him from giving Tom the strongest defense he possibly can.What is the message of justice poem? ›
Theme Of The Poem
The poem is based on how justice is actually applied in daily life. The poet expresses concern about how justice is implemented in the modern society. Some individuals dishonour the justice system by bribing for it.