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“To Kill a Mockingbird” and the Techniques Used

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“To Kill A Mockingbird” is an inspiring novel which presents many themes and issues relating to 1930’s society in the midst of the great depression. Prejudice was very common during this hard time and Harper Lee emphasises this through the eyes of an innocent six-year-old girl, Scout. Scout’s hometown of Maycomb plays an important part in To Kill A Mockingbird and is responsible for many of the issues raised in the novel, namingly prejudice. Thus, through techniques such as characterisation, structure, point of view and language, Harper Lee can emphasise on the issue of prejudice, along with many other apparent issues.

A large amount of characters are victimised by prejudice in “To Kill A Mockingbird”. There are many types of prejudice included in the novel and one of the outstanding forms is that of Racism. Racism relates to quite a range of characters in the book, however, Tom Robinson is the most apparent character relating to this issue. Tom is a husband, a father of four and a frequent churchgoer. Nevertheless, based on Maycomb’s old- fashioned views and beliefs, many of the town’s people judge him because of his colour. Unfortunately, Tom is accused of rape by a lonely white nineteen year old, Mayella Ewell. Atticus Finch, the father of six-year-old Scout, values the belief that all human beings must be accepted and treated equally. This is why he takes the case of Tom Robinson. This is due to the fact that even the people in Maycomb who believe in Tom’s innocence will not stand up for him as it would be against their social morals to defend a black man. Nevertheless, Atticus stands for what he knows is right and defends innocent Tom.

However, due to the racial stereotypes present in Maycomb’s society, Tom’s trial against Mayella was not a success. The citizens of Maycomb and the twelve jury men, typically being white, were clouded with prejudice and did not take the time to understand Tom’s case all because of his colour. Instead, they treated him unfairly and voted him guilty ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. The justice system didn’t allow this man to have a fair trial because of the color of his skin. Being Atticus’s children, Scout and Jem learn his values and attitudes and begin to not make judgments based on race or social status.

‘”First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”‘ This then contributes to Jem’s outrage when Tom’s case is lost. Atticus explains to Jem the sad but true reality of their society, “I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it–seems that only children weep…”

Other citizens of Maycomb do not feel the same way as Jem as they see the societal stereotype of Tom and prejudge him upon his skin colour, just as they prejudge other people upon their social status and appearance. This raises Harper Lee’s attitude towards prejudice quiet clearly. Tom Robinson is not solely the character of which the theme prejudice is based upon. Boo Radley is another character who is judged by many citizens of Maycomb. Untrue rumours about his reputation are spread throughout the town and this is seemingly why he does not leave the grounds of his house, for fear of more judging. Due to his failing social status, he is subject to much gossip and many rumours. As Jem realises towards the end of the novel, Boo is not what everyone thinks he is. “…If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other?

Scout, I think I’m beginning to understand something. I think I’m beginning to understand why Boo Radley’s stayed shut up in the house all this time…it’s because he wants to stay inside.” Jem understands the reality of the society he lives in and how judgemental his town is of one another. There seems to be a belief in Maycomb that if citizens fail to hold on to social rules, they too will end up like Boo, isolated and remembered as a freak. It is this fear that supports social status and keeps individuals from standing up for which they believe solely. Boo is judged from the event which supposedly happened when he was a child. “Boo drove the scissors into his parent’s leg, pulled them out, wiped them on his pants, and resumed his activity” After some trouble with the law, “Mr. Radley’s boy was not seen again for fifteen years”. Thus, causing the isolation of Boo.

However, if he ever leaves his house Boo is unfairly viewed because of his mysterious ways. However, Scout and Jem begin to see Boo’s reality. He leaves presents for them and helps them whenever possible. This gives the reader an understanding of Boo’s soft, caring personality. Because of his isolation, the people of Maycomb don’t see Boo’s soft side and this contributes to Harper Lee’s attitude towards societal prejudice. Structure is very important in presenting issues such as prejudice. If it were not structured in such a way, important issues would not be presented to the reader in the desired way of Harper Lee.

“To Kill A Mockingbird” is the story of two young children growing up. The first part of the book describes their life at home and at school. It gives insight into the background of their lives and contributes to a wide understanding for I, as the reader. Scout describes her hometown and it’s old-fashioned ways. This emphasises the reason why Maycomb has many old-fashioned backward prejudiced views and beliefs. The lessons the children learn in this part of the book are all about individuals such as Walter Cunningham, Mrs Dubose and Boo Radley. They learn beyond the prejudiced views of the town upon these people. In part two, I as the reader, can gain more information about the town and the differences between blacks and whites.

The main purpose of this part of the book is focused upon Tom’s trial and the issues of justice and injustice. Here, the children learn more about Maycomb’s prejudice against Negroes and the divisions and attitudes of society that they were not aware of before. Each part is carefully constructed, as Boo is centred in the first part, while Tom is centred in the second. Thus, also focusing upon the issue of prejudice throughout the entire book. The children are frightened of Boo because they prejudge him before they know him and Maycomb is somewhat frightened of Tom for the same reason. This creates a flow in structure in the book as prejudice is carried throughout as a major issue. The novel also is structured in a way to link the start of the book with the finish. This is obvious where Jem touches the side of Boo’s house in fear in the beginning, whereas Boo touches Jem’s face in affection towards the end of the book.

Language is apparent even at the beginning of the novel. Scout emphasises Maycomb’s old-fashioned, slow paced attitude. “Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer’s day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.” This gives the reader insight into the reality of Maycomb and why the citizens all seemed prejudiced towards people who ‘seemed’ different. As noticeable throughout the novel, Harper Lee also includes the innocent language of Scout and Jem. They are influenced by the adults around them and therefore pick up different language styles and this also emphasises adult beliefs. Many people in Maycomb retain a colloquial style of language and Jem and Scout pick this up quickly.

However, many of these people also refer racially to blacks as “niggers”. This is somewhat bad for Scout and Jem as they begin to use this word also. Referring even to Tom, Scout uses the word “nigger”, never fully understanding the meaning or offence of it. This shows the influence Maycomb’s societal and prejudice beliefs have on innocent children. However, having Atticus as a father is very beneficial for the children. He teaches them what is right and what is wrong and explains that it is never ok to prejudge someone. Thus, this is why he tells Jem that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. As Maudie explains, ‘”Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mocking bird.”‘ This emphasises the fact that it is wrong to judge someone who does nothing except nice and caring things to everyone else and gets nothing in return. The children take this into consideration and this is how they understand the reality of Boo.

Scout realises and says, “Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives. But neighbors give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad.” Another apparent use of language is when Calpurnia brings the children into a black church. She speaks totally different to her fellow african-americans and Scout and Jem do not understand. This produces the children’s innocence and Calpurnia’s distinct pressure to fit into her own race. As not to be judged in white society, Calpurnia speaks in the language of the whites, but changes her style of language when speaking to the blacks. This again, produces the issue of prejudice as Calpurnia tries hard to fit in to both races as not to be prejudged by anyone.

In “To Kill A Mockingbird”, we are given impressions of incidents as young Scout experiences them. It is presented in first person point of view and there are many advantages to this. Firstly, this novel has a very violent story line and involves such things as hatred, rape and violence. By showing the story through a child’s eyes, this violence can be softened, and Scout’s innocence can be contrasted with the prejudice of the older generation. This point of view can also give the reader an insight into the story which Scout does not see in her innocent mind. She does not understand the meaning of rape, whereas the reader does ‘”what’s rape?” I asked him that night…”. She does not understand the issues of prejudice, however the reader does. Scout is also not aware of the meaning of the objects put in the knot hole by Boo, and again, the reader does.

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