The Evils of Racism in To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird is inspired by the events that occurred during Harper Lee’s childhood. The setting in her novel is an allusion to her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama around the time of the Scottsboro Boys Trials. In this novel, Lee illustrates the evils of racism to communicate the theme that everyone should be treated equally, not by the color of the person’s skin.
In the case with Tom Robinson, Lee demonstrates “that southern justice for blacks was different from southern justice for whites” (May 4). Tom is convicted of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman. Throughout the trial, there is evidence to support Tom’s innocence, but because he is black, he is convicted anyway. This is a historical allusion to the trials that occurred in and around Scottsboro, Alabama, where nine black men were accused of raping two white women. Retrials occurred and, even with lack of proper evidence, all nine were convicted because of their skin color.
Scout has to face “the realities of southern society within the same age span that Harper Lee faced Scottsboro” (May 4). Ama Lee, Harper Lee’s father, was a man of honor that was related to the famous soldier Robert E. Lee, and likely pushed the attitudes of family pride and the cruelty of southern prejudice on to Harper. Lee demonstrates the teachings that Atticus gave Scout and Jem as a reference to the teachings that Lee’s father told Harper as a child. As Lee was growing up, she learned of the trials that were occurring, and realized that it was unfair that the black men were convicted of a crime that had little, if any, evidence. To a child, a mother or father is ‘all-knowing’ and therefore ask their parent(s) about anything that they do not fully understand. Lee portrays Atticus as this ‘all-knowing’ figure the night that Miss Maudie’s house burned to the ground when he realized that “all of Maycomb was out tonight, in one way or another” (57).
Racism in To Kill a Mockingbird affects, not only blacks, but whites as well. For instance, because Atticus defends Tom Robinson, Atticus and his children are ridiculed. Atticus is able to look past all of the ridicule and tells Scout “that the only thing that does not abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience” (Zaidman 1). He defends the unpopular decision by defending a black man and is proud of it. He explains his belief in a person’s integrity “how people conduct themselves in trying times shows their true character” (Zaidman 1).
Lee expresses her feelings on the injustice of racism and her wishes for all races to be treated equally through Atticus. Naturally, in a small, southern town that is dominated by whites, his pleas fall upon deaf ears. The people who dominate this town believe that “all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral brings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women…” (158) and therefore believe that Tom is guilty even with evidence pointing towards his...