Sunday, April 21, 2013

In `To Kill A Mockingbird’ What View Does Harper Lee Give Us Of The Lives And Difficulties Of The Black Community In Maycomb, And What Hope If Any, Does She Give For The Future?

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The novel `To Kill A Mockingbird‘, written by Harper Lee, is set in the mid-10’s in Maycomb, a small, isolated, inward looking town in Alabama, USA. The book is mostly dominated by racial prejudice against Negroes. This prejudice, which the southern states conformed, resulted in an American Civil War. The South’s economy prospered through selling good like sugar, cotton and tobacco, which were produced by black slaves. The Southern states believed that black were inferior to white. The Northern states, however, did not want this slavery and prejudice to continue. The Northern states won the war and the Southern states had to abolish slavery.

In `To Kill A Mockingbird’ was set 70 years after the Civil War and we can see that the Southern states did not change their attitudes and held onto old values and traditions. The Southern resisted the idea that black people could share social and political equality and continued to support white authority.

In Maycomb there is no equality between the black and white communities. The town’s people are so racially prejudice that they have narrow, intolerant, rigid codes of behaviour that they choose to impose on each other. The Negroes live very different and difficult lives. They are regarded as inadequate, just because of the colour of their skin rather that who they are as people. This bigotry is made even more minacious by being depicted as `normal’ behaviour by the citizens. The town’s people do not realise their own hypocrisy because prejudice is so entrenched in their every day life.

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The black community is segregated from the white society. They are recognised as having their own land and church. The citizens consider Dolphus Raymond as an oddity, because he chooses to live amongst the Negroes, when he is white.

The Negroes are very religious, God fearing, law abiding, good natured, dignified people. After the Civil War the black community were earning money for their work and the all saved up all their money and built themselves a church, to worship and praise their God. A proportion of the white citizens takes advantage of the church and gamble in it when it is not in use for worship. They have no respect for the Negroes or God by gambling in their church. Although the Negroes are treated very badly they never consider rebelling. The only individual from the community who inflicted prejudice against the whites was Lula. When Calpurnia took Jem and Scout to the black church, the men steeped back and took off their hats; the women crossed their arms and made respectful gestures.

The Negroes are not educated. The whites believe that the Negroes do not deserve to be educated. They do not want black children associating with their children because the Negroes are thought to be a bad influence. Out of the whole church only four of the parish are able to read and write. It is ironic that Bob Ewell and family have the opportunity to be educated but do not use it and the Negroes would do anything for the opportunity to be educated.

Without education the Negroes cannot get decent, well paid jobs because they do not have the qualifications compared with the white society. So the whites have priority over the jobs. The type of jobs that the Negroes are offered are the low paid, maybe dangerous jobs which the white community does not wish to undertake. These jobs are domestic servants like Calpurnia, Jesse and Sophie, garbage collectors like Zeebo or cotton pickers like Tom Robinson was when he was younger, until he tore his left arm muscles during the job and is now unable to use his arm. These jobs are all actually considered very respectable for a Negro. By doing these jobs the Negroes are paid a very small amount of money. This is presumably why they live where they do and obey the white citizen’s because they do not have the money or power to stand up and do something about the way they are being treated.

The court of law is also swayed and conditioned by prejudice. In the court house the Negroes are, once again, segregated from the whites for the Negroes sat upstairs and the whites sat downstairs. The jury would submit no equality during a trail against a Negro because it consists of prejudice Maycomb town people. The trail of Tom Robinson reveals the depth of prejudice in Maycomb and believes that the black society is essentially inferior. Tom Robinson is clearly innocent of the crime of raping Mayella Ewell. It is also suspected that his accusers are lying but by Tom’s own admission, is guilty of daring to feel `sorry’ for a white girl. The white citizens cannot accept such a presumption and therefore produce an unjust decision and verdict. `When it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins.’

There is a considerable amount of hypocrisy and prejudice occurring in Maycomb and is seems too idealistic for the racial problems to be solved, but there is still some hope for the future. Citizens such as Boo Radley, Heck Tate, Dolphus Raymond and to some extent Miss Maudie Atkinson do not conform and are against racial prejudice, although they are prosecuted for their decisions. Judge Taylors also unprejudiced and honourable to see that Tom Robinson has a fair trail by appointing Atticus, a very well experienced lawyer, to defend him rather than usually a black man would have a bad, inexperienced lawyer defending him. During the novel Mr Cunningham, a member of the lynch mob, realises to think about others views and that Tom Robinson is a human being to. The children Jem and Scout are not prejudice, therefore they will pass the sense of equality down to their future generations. The children learnt this mainly from their honourable father Atticus, but also from the trail. Atticus is a very unprejudiced man, he was willing to defend tom, even though he knew it would be very difficult for him but he knew he had to do it because it was the correct thing to do. This teaches the children that you must always do what’s right no matter what, and that everyone is equal and deserves to be treated equal



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