Prejudice, the word, can be split up into two other words for a greater understanding of what the question is actually asking, i. e. pre- and -judge. To pre-judge someone is to be prejudiced In the novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, prejudice is portrayed to the reader in different ways in order to send across a message or an idea the author has. As well as being able to understand meanings behind the novel, Harper Lee has included prejudice so that the reader is able to understand the historical details in the book, for example; the effects of the civil war (1861-1865) upon the USA and the effects towards black people.
Harper Lee may also use prejudice to give people a ‘feeling of reality’, so the readers feel as if they were present at the time period the book was written in. The author could also be telling us that the whole concept of prejudice, is everywhere in society, whether it is in the time period when the novel was written or today. The way in which Harper Lee gets her messages through to the readers is by giving examples of extreme prejudice throughout the entire novel.
One example of prejudice that Harper Lee included in the novel did include racism towards coloured people, but it was prejudice against whole groups of people. There were big divisions of people’s social status in Maycomb. For example Aunt Alexandra was constantly making remarks about how high class the Finch family was. Groups that were victims of prejudice included the ‘Cunninghams’ and the ‘Ewell’ families. Aunt Alexandra didn’t used to let Scout play with Walter Cunningham as he was poor, was a farmer and was low class.
From the remarks Aunt Alexandra makes in the novel about the Cunningham family the reader can pick up the narrow-mindedness of the some of characters in the novel, and that in the time period the book was set, people just could not accept the fact that there were oloured people, people of different social status, and people who were just different in the sense they were not a stereotype of a Maycomb citizen, which characters like Aunt Alexandra show. However the Cunninghams were never as bad as what the Ewell family was depicted as.
They were “white trash” and they were very poorly educated. By using the words “white trash”, Harper Lee has manipulated the reader into thinking that the Ewell family was so low in the social circle that they didn’t deserve to be called people. They were referred to as “animals” to show how low they really were. The character development of these two families as made Harper Lee show that not only coloured people can be attacked by prejudice, you could be a different social or economic status and could be treated differently.
Although people were seen as being prejudiced against groups, individuals were also targeted. One key example of an individual is Boo Radley. Most of the town is prejudiced against Boo as he doesn’t follow the crowd and is not often seen doing things that other people of Maycomb do. Rumours and gossip portray Boo as a malignant and illusive character and children (being gullible as they are) believe the rumours, whether the gossip is true or not. They believe that food from the Radley garden is “poisonous” and run past his house from fear.
By adding characters like Boo Radley into the novel Harper Lee shows us that only a few people in Maycomb accept Boo for what he really is, and respect him. I also think that here, the author is trying to speculate how judgmental and narrow – minded, not only children, but adults can be by calling him “different”. When the residents of Maycomb call someone different, the reader is lead to think that the “different” character just does not think or act like the other citizens of Maycomb, and therefore they are goals for prejudice.
Harper Lee also suggests to the reader, to be judgmental of a character of Boo Radley’s nature is expected of not only residents in Maycomb, but in general it is human nature. Even though a fair majority of the Maycomb residents are severely prejudice, there are a few people who look beneath the surface of different individuals and groups. For example, Atticus. Even though Atticus does make comments about being “common” this character is presented in the novel to be wise understanding of most situations.
He does not judge anyone by their race, religion, views or anything else that makes them different. He oes not seem to be in favour the racist attitudes in Maycomb and sees them be like a “disease”. From understanding the context the word is used in, Harper Lee proposes to the reader that the prejudice in Maycomb spreads from one character to another. Miss Maudie also has some non- prejudiced views by saying that she is proud of “those people in this town who say that fair play is not marked white only.
This quotation tells the reader that the character of Miss Maudie was trying to say that she likes and is proud of the thought that black and white people would be able to use the same things, as well as being allowed to be round one another. Eventually, nearer to the end of the novel Jem and Scout show their maturity and open – mindedness, which is evidently shown by making some ‘anti-racist’ remarks.
I think that by adding only a few characters with non-prejudiced views Harper Lee is able to discuss with the reader on a subconscience level, that even though there is a majority who are always judgmental, there always be some people who can see people for what they really are, no matter what makes them different. One of the most important examples of a type of prejudice shown in the novel is acism. The entire town of Maycomb, with a few exceptions are racist. They see black people as inferior beings and treat them similarly.
Mrs Dubose, a resident of Maycomb shows her racist views by making a remark about Atticus when she said to the children that their father was “no better than the niggers and trash he works for”. From saying this, Mrs Dubose is not only saying that black people should be treated like trash and not as human beings, but she is also saying, the fact that Atticus has something to do with a black person, that he is also as low as a black person. Compared to Mrs Dubose, Atticus seems to accept people for who they are, whereas Mrs Dubose just seems to add to my theory of the stereotypical characters of Maycomb – being judgmental.
Harper Lee also makes the reader realise something about Atticus’s children. We know from the reaction of Jem towards the comments Mrs Dubose made, that Atticus’s children have been influenced by Atticus’s wise and open -minded views. In part two of the novel, racism is quite evidently shown by the jury when Tom Robinson is on trial. Atticus knew that although he was going to defend Tom Robinson to the best of his bilities, he would not be able to succeed due to the prejudice the town showed against coloured people.
Harper Lee included aspects like the reaction of Mrs Dubose towards Atticus working for a black man to show how extreme people’s views were back in the beginning half of the 20th century, therefore she is able to show the reader what it could have been like if they were a person of different race. But as well as racism in Maycomb, there was prejudice against others who were just simply ‘different’. Overall, Harper Lee is trying to show the reader the reality of life, in the time period he novel was set.
But one thing that I think Harper Lee was also trying to put across to the reader that reactions like this can take place anywhere there is a negative reaction to something different. She did this by adding prejudice in the first place, but also discussing it with the reader by using example of different people and then seeing reactions of the narrow- minded residents in Maycomb. I think that Harper Lee was trying to discuss the theme of prejudice by making it obvious to the reader how easily it can occur and how wrong it can be- ending up taking the lives of innocent people.