To Kill A Mockingbird
By Harper Lee
In “To Kill A Mockingbird” a black man is wrongly accused of rape of a white girl, he had no chance of justice in that society. Atticus Finch defended him and the story is told through the eyes of his young daughter, Scout. There are four aspects of the text I would like to discuss; the time and place where it is set, inequality, symbolism of the title and the way the story was narrated.
The story is set in the 30’s in the deep south in the United States in the days of segregation. Besides the outright racism there is also institutionalised racism for instance, Scout, who does not have a racist bone in her body, refers to Blacks as ‘niggers’, until her father explains that “nigger lover… slipped into usage with some people like ourselves when they want a common ugly term to call somebody”. She regards Cal as her surrogate mother, never stopping to think about her own family of children. Atticus is called a “nigger lover” for defending Tom in the trial, and the children are beaten up at school because of this. Atticus bravely went to the jail to help protect Tom when a lynch mob was coming. Atticus taught his children not to be like their prejudiced neighbours, “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it”.
Segregation meant Tom would never get a fair trial, even though he had the best lawyer in town and the judge was on his side. During the trial, Atticus proved that Tom was physically unable to attack the young girl. However the jury who where southern, white farmers, would not let a black man walk free, guilty or not. This shows the injustice of the system. “The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any colour of the rainbow” says Atticus. It was a very stratified society, there were people like Atticus and his neighbours, the poor white farmers like the Cunninghams, and the uneducated poor people who shunned society like the Ewells and, even if they were law abiding upstanding citizens, if they were black they were down the bottom.
Tom is a good man, he is innocent of the crime he is being charged with, he made the mistake of feeling sorry for a white girl and tried to help her, in this case, Tom Robinson is the mockingbird. Miss Maudie says “mockingbirds… don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. Thats why its a sin to kill a mockingbird”. Tom was constantly good to people, as his boss Link Dees said at the court case “I just want a whole lot of you to know one thing right now. That boys worked for me eight years an’ I ain’t had a speck o’ trouble outta him. Not a speck”
The story is narrated by young Scout, who is six at the beginning of the book, and nine towards the end, and it is her looking back, at when these events happened. It uses the colloquial language of the south such as “Yonder, holler, ain’t, soon’s I get grown”, all the characters of all stratifications use these terms.The narrator is a young girl so much of it is humorous for instance “Your names longer’n you are, bet its a foot longer”. At the court case the narration changes and starts to report more of what was happening
The text explores ideas which are important to society today, because there was no justice and things have not changed all that much, and things are moving far too slowly for Black people.
In America today there are still African Americans being killed or taken to prison for no reason, and they are not getting the justice they deserve. Justice is a right. This is what song writer Kendrick Lamar sings about in his rap ‘Alright’, which has a large association with the Black Lives Matter movement, as the song’s chorus “we gon’ be alright!” has been adopted and chanted by many protesters as it gives people hope. They were going to be okay and push through together.
I found this novel, entertaining. It encouraged me to learn more about America in the south, and about the segregation. As a child with an African dad, and grandparents, I felt that the story was relevant to me, and my family as they had struggled through this time aswell.