Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1471 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Literature

¶ … Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Specifically it will discuss racism in the novel. Harper Lee's memorable novel about the South and racism won a Pulitzer Prize in 1961. In the story, racism rears its ugly head in the form of hatred, prejudice, and misunderstanding. Lee has crafted a magnificent book that shows just how large a gap existed between whites and blacks in the South during the 1930s, and how some people tried to bridge that gap.

Everyone knows racism existed (and still exists) in much of the South. Blacks were pitted against whites, and the whites usually came out on top, just as they ultimately do in this memorable novel. What is not so well-known is that some whites, like the fictional Atticus Finch in the novel, did stand up against bigotry and racism. They did not always succeed, but they did bring attention to the problem, and they did stand up for what they believed in. Atticus does this by representing Tom in court, and attempting to get him the fairest trial he possibly can. He does not succeed, but his strength and courage do make him stand out. He tells Scout, "As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it-whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash" (Lee 233). He is a fair man living in an unfair time, and he passes his strength down to Scout, to make sure she never treats people with bigotry and prejudice.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Specifically Assignment

The prejudice and racism in the novel serve a vital purpose. They indicate the inequity of life in the South in the 1930s, and how, even though Blacks were free from slavery, they really were not free at all. Lee shows this throughout the courtroom trial, when Atticus attempts to break down some of the stereotypes that were so common in the South. He tells the jury, "You know the truth, the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men cannot be trusted around women, black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men" (Lee 217). He is absolutely right, but as the results of the trial indicate, it is not easy for Southerners to give up their long established ways of thinking and acting, and they convict Tom anyway.

Lee blends the theme of racism throughout the novel, although there are other themes, as well. Early in the book she writes, "One time Atticus said you never really knew a man until you stood in his shoes and walked around in them" (Lee 79). Scout is beginning to understand the undercurrents of tension that run through her small town, and her father attempts to make her more aware of people in general, not stereotyped by color or religion or background. Using Scout to narrate the novel in the first person gives the innocent perspective of a child witnessing life-changing events, which makes the novel more powerful and disturbing at the same time (Shackelford). Many people in the South simple accepted bigotry and prejudice as factors of everyday life. Seen from a child's perspective, they seem even more disturbing and coarse, out of proportion to events and actual people.

Setting the book in the 1930s gives Lee much more flexibility in creating stereotypical characters for her novel. Bigotry was accepted, even expected in the South during the time, and that continued throughout the area until the Civil Rights fights of the 1960s. Another critic notes, "In the time period of the book, the early 1930s, the American south was riddled with racism. It was unacceptable for a black man to come anywhere near a white woman" (Kasper). Black people were second-class citizens in the South, and they knew it. There was little they could do to change things. However, one of the most important aspects of this racism Lee portrays is not that it existed, but that there were people who stood up against it and for what they knew was right. Atticus may have been in the minority, but there were others like him, and Lee wanted readers to know and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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