To kill a mockingbird is one of the most critically acclaimed novels of all time, set in 1932 Alabama. Harper Lee, the author, raises the issues of racism and injustice, though she offers little to solve these issues.
To kill a mockingbird highlights a certain group of characters throughout the novel. This is the group of the “mockingbirds”, those that are on the receiving end of injustice and racism throughout the novel. Some of the “mockingbirds” are the main characters, Scout and Jem. Other “mockingbirds” are Tom Robinson, Atticus Finch, Calpurnia. The “mockingbirds” are the innocent characters, but that does not mean that the rest of the town are innocent. In fact, many are far from it.
To kill a mockingbird carries the reader on an extraordinary odyssey through the fires of prejudice and injustice in 1932 Alabama. Scout, the narrator, is an embodiment of Harper Lee’s younger years. Through her eyes, we see a town split over an accusation, a lonely soul who the children are obsessed with, and one mans quest for vengeance. Scout Finch lives with her brother, Jem, and their widowed father, Atticus, in the sleepy Alabama town of Maycomb. Throughout the novel, these three characters become intertwined with many other members of the town, spinning together a web of adventure, prejudice, innocence, and vengeance.
Throughout the novel Harper Lee, through Scout, recognises that racism is a huge problem in Maycomb, though not many answers are evident. One example of this is the plight of Dolphus Raymond. Dolphus, a wealthy white man who is in a relationship with a black woman, pretends to be a drunkard to avoid the shame that will be thrust upon him if the town is to realise his relationship is one out of choice. “I try to give ’em a reason, you see. It helps folks if they can latch onto a reason…. you see they could never, never understand that I live like I do because that’s the way I want to live.” This quote implies an important theme in the book. Dolphus is explaining to Jem that people search for reasons to persecute those who seem different to them. Dolphus thinks it is just as easy to give them something to talk about, than to try to deny it.
Another element of the novel where it is clear that Harper Lee is, if the novel is any sign of her own views, was not sure as to a solution to racism and injustice at the time of writing. This is showed in the conversation between Atticus, Jem and Scout following the guilty verdict given to the Negro Tom Robinson, who is convicted on circumstantial evidence by an all white jury. Jem is at a loss as to how all twelve members of the jury found Tom guilty, and Atticus explains the system of how a jury is selected, and how that in the courtroom, meant to be a level playing field, a white mans word is always taken over a black mans word no matter the circumstance. Though Atticus raises the problem, he fails to find a solution and takes apart all of Jem’s arguments. This is the most blatant highlight of the fact that Harper Lee has not expressed solutions to the problems of Maycomb 1932.
These are just two incidents in a novel rife with issues but scarce with answers. To kill a mockingbird offers a well written snapshot of 1932 Alabama, and highlights some of the problems that went hand in hand with this time. Though these problems are easily identified, they are not so easily solved, as shown by Harper Lee’s classic novel.
It was not for many years, even after it was written, that the problems raised in the novel were answered. If Harper Lee had solved those issues in her novel, it would have been an outstanding achievement, and have raised the novel to a whole other level, but, as it stands, To kill a mockingbird does not answer the racism and injustice issues raised in the novel.