To Kill a Mockingbird Prejudice and Racism
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In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee presents the issue of discrimination, a common occurrence in the 1930s. During this time period there were two events that carved society; the Great Depression and the introduction of Jim Crow Law. This resulted in gender and racial discrimination and extreme poverty. During this time period many people were under extreme pressure just to keep alive. Scout, daughter of Atticus Finch spends much of her time with her older brother Jem and is constantly trying to prove herself his equal.
Like all women in Maycomb, Scout finds herself a victim of gender discrimination. Aunt Alexandra tells Scout a few times that she “could not hope to be a lady if she wore breeches”. Aunt Alexandra also expects Scout to play with stoves, tea sets, and necklaces. Aunt Alexandra is not the only person who is discriminative towards women, even Atticus who is said to not judge anyone, also discriminates against women. On page 244, Atticus tells Jem that “women are not allowed to serve on juries in Alabama”.
Atticus even jokes that “court would never get a complete case tried with women on the jury because women would interrupt to ask questions”. Scout even agrees with Atticus on this. She says, “Perhaps our forefathers were wise. ” The gender discrimination displayed by Atticus and Aunt Alexandra prove that in the 1930’s women were not acknowledged or treated the same as men. The most prominent type of discrimination in To Kill a Mockingbird is racial discrimination, this leads to the death of an innocent black man, Tom Robinson. Tom was accused by Mayella Ewell of rape.
In the court hearing, it seems that Tom is innocent because the person who beat Mayella led primarily with their left hand, and Tom’s left hand is crippled. Even though there is no sufficient evidence that Tom tried to rape Mayella, the jury convicts Tom. The jury convicted Tom simply because it was his word against a white woman’s word. In truth Tom was just trying to help Mayella as she was needing someone to help her with a chore, but for the white people of Maycomb to think that a black man could help a white woman was preposterous!
The racist attitudes shown by the town of Maycomb towards the unfair trial of Tom Robinson portrays how black people were treated during the 1930’s. In To Kill a Mockingbird the Cunningham’s are very poor people, the Great Depression put many people into extreme debt and poverty. The rich people had very little respect for the poor of Maycomb. Aunt Alexandra, sister of Atticus is very prejudiced towards the poor people of Maycomb. When Scout wanted to invite Walter Cunningham over, Aunt Alexandra’s reply is “Jean Louise, there is no doubt in my mind that they’re good folks.
But they’re not our kind of folks. ” When Scout presses further, asking why she can’t play with Walter, Aunt Alexandra responds “Because he is poor white trash. ” These attitudes expressed by Aunt Alexandra demonstrate how the wealthy felt towards the poorer people in the 1930’s. During the 1930’s, discrimination was a very common social problem. The Jim Crow Law and the Great Depression resulted in the discriminating values and attitudes portrayed by Americans during this time. The issues of racism, gender inequality and poverty resulted in the loss of people’s lives or their chance to live their life.