Prejudice is an adverse judgement or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts. It is shown in a lot of different ways in the novel ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’. The first example of prejudice in this novel is shown by the Town people concerning Arthur (Boo) Radley. Scout suitably described him as a ‘malevolent phantom’ because they thought he was some kind of monster and was also described as “alien”.
He was said to be the one committing all the crimes in Maycomb. When everyone was asleep at night he would be sneaking around the streets peeping in people’s windows. When azaleas were frozen it was said that he had breathed on them. Even the children were affected by these rumours. They wouldn’t touch the pecans that fell off the Radley’s tree in the school yard because according to them, if you did, you would die.
All of this could be qualified as their prejudice against Boo, just because he never came out of his house to do anything they had to make up a reason why he didn’t, but what they didn’t realise was that he was arrested when he was younger, and from that day onwards his father didn’t let him leave the house, he had become accustomed to staying indoors “Mr Radley’s boy was not seen again for fifteen years”. Another type of prejudice shown in this novel is class prejudice. It is most often demonstrated by Scout who is completely unaware of it as well as a few of her fellow class members on the first day of school.
They attributed certain qualities to each family in Maycomb and expected them all to be hereditary. For example the reason, which Scout gave us, as to why Burris Ewell was so dirty was, as far as the children were concerned, because “He’s one of the Ewell’s” and the reason why Walter Cunningham refused the quarter Miss Fisher offered him was because “He’s a Cunningham”. This shows the way in which class prejudice is manifested in Maycomb. It is taken for granted there. In fact the children are unaware that making these remarks about the Cunningham’s and the Ewell’s is being prejudice, they have just been brought up that way.
Later, when Jem had Walter over for tea and Scout criticised the way in which Walter ate and acted up at the table, Calpurnia and Atticus were not pleased. Calpurnia admonished Scout with an angry tone saying that Walter was ‘company’ and that he could eat how ever he wished. When Scout retaliated saying how Walter was not ‘company’ and that he was just a ‘Cunningham’, Calpurnia was shocked at Scout’s blatant prejudice and tried to impress upon her the need to treat everyone equally.
Another example of class prejudice is when Aunt Alexandra doesn’t want Scout to play with Walter Cunningham because they are lower class whites, but not as low as the Ewells who are the lowest form of whites, “white trash”, but even they look down on the blacks. The black community are automatically seen as the bottom of the class system. That brings me onto the last form of prejudice in this novel, racial prejudice. This is shown in the novel with regard to Calpurnia, Dolphus Raymond and Tom Robinson. Tom Robinson is found guilty of raping Mayella Ewell, but the accusers where suspected of lying.
One of the reasons why he was convicted of this crime was because it was a white man’s word against a black man’s, and in Maycomb, a white man’s word is always taken whether the man is trust worthy or not. Dolphus Raymond was considered to be the oddball of Maycomb, because he was a white man but he preferred to live with the ‘Negroes’ and around the town he was known as a drunkard, but he tells the children that he pretends to everyone that he is permanently drunk in order to escape the pressure from towns people who could not believe that he chooses to live in such a way.
The examples of racial prejudice manifested in the book are demonstrated by: the Sheriff, when he arrested Boo Radley, who was suspected of stabbing his father in the leg with a pair of scissors, he “hadn’t the heart to put him in jail along side Negroes”; Mrs. Dubose, when she shouts at the children, “Your Father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for! “; Aunt Alexander was racist because she didn’t like to talk about important matters “in front of Calpurnia and them”; Cousin Francis, who claims that Atticus is “ruining the family” by taking on the Robinson case.
There are a few anti-racist attitudes in Maycomb; they are the ones who are open-minded enough to recognise racism for the evil that it is. There’s Atticus, who hates the town’s racist attitude and refers to it as “Maycomb’s usual disease”. His son Jem also dislikes the racism in the town; he couldn’t believe it that a jury could convict an innocent man just because he was black. “It ain’t right! ” he says. Miss Maudie, a Maycomb resident and neighbour of Finch’s, says she is proud of “those people in this town who say fair play is not marked white only. ”
A lot of people learn from the prejudice in this novel; Scout learns that she must accept people for who they are and not be judgemental. Jem is mostly affected by the trial and realises that Maycomb is in a cocoon of prejudice. The whole town begins to learn as a result of the Trial and Mrs Maudie describes this change as being “a baby-step towards fair-mindedness”. Atticus is an example to everyone. He understands that the only way to break down prejudice and misunderstanding is to see things from another’s point of view- “to climb into his skin and walk around in it”. This is the message of the whole novel.