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    How prejudices in 1930’s America are reflected in the novel, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Essay

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    In the novel, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, we see many types of prejudice, the first example that we meet comes in chapter one when Scout tell us her family history. ‘In England Simon was irritated by the persecution of those who called themselves Methodists at the hands of their more liberal brethren. ‘ This quotation shows how the English people were prejudice against the Methodists. There is more evidence of religious intolerance later in the book when Miss Maudy scorns the ‘foot-washing Baptists’.

    Apart from religious intolerance, the two other main types of prejudice that we encouter throughout the book, are racism and prejudice against different classes. These types of prejudice strongly reflect the situation in the Southern states of America in the 1930’s. Scout, is six years old at the beginning of this novel, and her brother Jem, is ten. Even though she is so young, Scout manages to portray the sense that Maycomb feels bitter and isolated after the Civil War, over fifty years earlier.

    The isolation, and how the town feels, reflects the way many places in the Southern states felt at that time. This quote tells us how the residents of Maycomb feel. ‘There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County. ‘ The people from these isolated places gradually became prejudice towards outsiders. In the book this becomes clear in the way the children react to new school teacher. ‘”This says I am Miss Caroline Fisher. I am from North Alabama, from Winston County. The class murmured apprehensively should she prove to harbour her share of peculiarities indigenous to that region. ‘ All of these prejudices seem to stem from ignorance and fear of other societies.

    In the novel, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, the settings reflect and contradict 1930’s American society in many ways, the most obvious contradiction is the way that nearly all of the blacks are betrayed as being perfect. The exception to this is Lula. When Calpurnia takes Jem and Scout to ‘First Purchase African M. E. Church’, Lula is the first to greet with, ‘what you up to, Miss Cal? This shows how she respects Calpurnia, but does not like the fact that she brought two white children to a Negro church.

    This contradicts society at the time, as not all black people were perfect, they did have their faults like Lula. Harper Lee portrays the blacks as intelligent people, where as at the time, they were thought of as ignorant, immoral and lazy. The Negroes, in comparison to the white Ewells who live on the dump, and ‘have never done an honest days work in their lives’, are really as the author portrays them and the Ewells are the ignorant, immoral and lazy ones.

    More evidence of this comes during Tom’s trial and Scout, Jem and Dill are in the black balcony. ‘Reverend Sykes came puffing behind us, and steered us gently through the black people in the balcony. Four Negroes rose and gave us their front row seats. ‘ The black people respect their Vicar and the white children that are accompanying him, unlike the Ewells who respect no one. The racism that the white people show towards the blacks, makes even the children feel that it is bad for whites to like Negroes.

    An early example of this is at Christmas, at Finch’s Landing when Scout, Jem, Atticus and Uncle Jack are visiting Francis, Aunt Alexandra and Uncle Jimmy. Francis and Scout are talking and Francis says, ‘I guess it ain’t your fault if Uncle Atticus is a nigger-lover… Grandma says it’s bad enough he lets you all run wild, but now he’s turned out a nigger-lover we’ll never be able to walk the streets of Maycomb again. ‘ Even at her age, Scout is able to tell that this is not a good name to be called.

    Not all of the racism that the children encounter in the book comes from the other children, some of it is from the teachers at school, an example of this is when Scout is in the third grade and her teacher is Miss Gates, in class she describes Hitler’s persecution of the Jews as wrong but is racist herself. This quotation comes from Scout when she is talking to Jem about Miss Gates. ‘”Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an’ then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home-“‘ Not all of the characters of this novel are racist, those who are not include Judge Taylor, Miss Maudy, and Atticus.

    We can tell that Judge Taylor is not racist because he asks Atticus to take on Tom Robinson’s case rather than letting a junior who needs experience. These people may not be racist, but they are not enough to change the town, this is shown in Tom Robinson’s court case, as it is obvious that he is innocent, but the jury gives the verdict, ‘guilty’. This reflects life in South America at the time this novel was set, most people were racist, but those who were not were too scared or not strong enough on their own to make any changes.

    In the novel, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, Harper Lee gives two examples of white outcasts, they are Dolphus Raymond and Boo Radley. Dolphus Raymond is a wealthy man who ‘”owns all one side of the riverbank down there. “‘ He lives with the Negroes and he has several half-cast children, and he has been rejected by whites who want nothing to do with a man who loves a black woman. His reaction to this is to find a way for society to excuse him, he drinks Coca Cola out of a paper bag and lets everyone else think that it is whisky so that they can pass him off as drunk.

    In chapter twenty he is trying to explain this to Scout, Jem and Dill; ‘”I try to give ’em a reason, you see. It helps if they can latch onto a reason. When I come to town, which is seldom, if I weave a little and drink out of this sack, folks can say Dolphus Raymond’s in the clutches of whisky- that why he won’t change his ways. He can’t help himself, that’s why he lives the way he does. “‘ ‘The Radley Place was inhibited by an unknown entity, the mere description of whom it was enough to make us behave for days on end. Scout, Jem and Dill all fear Boo Radley at the beginning of the novel, though at the end his true character is discovered.

    Outcasts of society were common in the Southern American states in the 1930’s, through actions that they or their families performed, they were rejected by society. The Radleys are a good example of this as when he was younger, Boo stabbed his father in the leg with a pair of scissors and has not left the house since. When Scout meets Boo, in the final chapter of this book, she sees the good side of him and as she narrates, she shows us her new feelings towards him. Neighbours bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between.

    Boo was our neighbour. He had given us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good luck pennies and our lives. But neighbours give in return. We never put back in that tree what we took out of it. We had given him nothing in return and it made me sad. ‘ In ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, Atticus is a character to admire, he fights for racial equality, teaches his children and is polite to everyone in Maycomb. He treats all of the blacks, such as Calpurnia, as his equals.

    Cal cooks, cleans and looks after Atticus’ children and is treated as an equal in the house. If you look at this in comparison to the way Miss Merriweather treats her maid, Sophy, who is always being told her faults and being ridiculed in front of the towns women, Calpurnia is very lucky to work for him. Atticus also helps the towns blacks in many ways, and they appreciate this very much, as after Tom’s court case he is given presents by many of the Negroes that know him. ‘Calpurnia said, “Tom Robinson’s daddy sent you along this chicken this morning.

    I fixed it. ” “You tell him I’m proud to get it. ‘ Atticus was deliberately asked to take on Tom’s case as the Judge felt that Tom Robinson was innocent and he knew that Atticus would fight his hardest to prove that he was. Judge Taylor knows that even if Atticus knows that he is going to loose, he will do his best anyway. He talks about having courage as, ‘”it’s when you know your licked before you begin and you begin anyway. “‘ After managing to keep the jury out for so long and the verdict of guilty, a reader of Harper Lee’s novel would have thought that Bob Ewell would have had his share of attention, but unfortunately not.

    The day after the trial, he sees Atticus in town and spits in his face, the three children do not know of this until they see Miss Stephanie in their street. ‘It was Miss Stephanie’s pleasure to tell us: this morning Mr Bob Ewell stopped Atticus on the post office corner, spat in his face, and told him he’d get him if it took the rest of his life. ‘ Again proving the hazards of trying to be impartial in a town like Maycomb. Atticus is not the only non-racist person in the town, but the others do not do anything about it, though they respect and appreciate what he does.

    One of these people is the Finchs’ neighbour, Miss Maudy, who, just after the trial of Tom Robinson, is talking to Jem and Scout about the racism in their town, and how Atticus has changed it. ‘”I waited and waited to see you come down the sidewalk, and as I waited I thought, Atticus Finch won’t win, he can’t win, but he’s the only one in these parts that can keep a jury out for so long in a case like that. And I thought to myself, well, we’re making a step- it’s just a baby step, but it’s a step. “‘

    In the course of history, not just in America, there has been much racism, Atticus, though a fictional character does his bit to try and prevent it, there are other people that were real that did this to. Most of these people were blacks, fighting for their own rights, such as Martin Luther King, but there were a few white men, like Atticus, fighting for Negroes rights. Donald Woods, lived in South Africa with his family, and supported the black populations, he wrote columns supporting blacks in local newspapers and eventually had to flee South Africa to neighbouring Lesotho.

    He did this after receiving many threats, and also a t-shirt with ‘Steve Biko’ written on that burned his five year old daughter when she put it on, as it was treated with acid. Steve Biko was the leader of the black people in South Africa who died whilst in the hands of the government. This shows that through history there were other people like the fictional character of Atticus Finch who supported blacks. In this novel and in life in the 1930’s Southern States of America, racism and prejudice faced people all of the time, but some tried to change this, in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, the character that does this is Atticus.

    He is trys to bring equality to the town of Maycomb. Miss Maudy is right when she says that Atticus has made a ‘”tiny step”‘, he proved Tom Robinson innocent enough to keep the jury out for a long time. But there is one quote that sums up societyat the time, and it comes from Jem. ‘”You know something, Scout? I’ve got it all figured out, now. I’ve thought about it a lot lately and I’ve got it figured out. There’s four kinds of folk in the world. There’s the ordinary people like us and the neighbours, there’s the kind like the Cunningham’s out in the woods, there’s the kind like the Ewell’s don at the dump and the Negoes. “‘

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    How prejudices in 1930’s America are reflected in the novel, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Essay. (2017, Nov 02). Retrieved from

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