Prejudism in To Kill A Mockingbird
English Course Code
July 12, 2000
Prejudism in the 1930s, down in the Southern United States, was not good. In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, we see many instances of prejudism against certain groups of characters. Tom Robinson, a Negro, has been discriminated due to his skin color. Scout's father, Atticus Finch, is also being prejudized because he is defending a Negro. Prejudism is also seen with Boo Radley, a.k.a. Arthur Radley, because of his habits. Stereotyping is a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment. A scapegoat is one that bears the blame for others. Hypocrisy is the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion If everyone stopped being prejudice against different groups of people, then the world would be a better place to live in.
Tom Robinson, a Negro man, is being charged for rape. His chances in court are very slim because he is 'different' than everyone else. We see an example of this in a previous event where Tom is arrested because he couldn't pay a fine, "I had to serve because I couldn't pay the fine. Other fellow paid his." (P.190). In the latter incident, due to the lack of information in the novel, we can only assume that the reason for Tom's arrest was because of his skin color. During the time of the trial, the authorities thought Tom to be a dangerous man, so they went out of their way to put him in a jail in the county and in a near-by jail in Abbottsville. He was being harassed when the 'gang' from Old Sarum came and wanted to kill Tom. "You know what we want, get aside from the door Mr. Finch", (P.151). The jury that Tom was up against was all white men. Because of this, Tom had virtually no chance of being free, in the court's ruling. "Judge Taylor was polling the jury, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty," (P.211). Prejudism is an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge. This is definitely the case with Tom Robinson, but is also seen with Atticus Finch.
In this novel, the character, Atticus Finch is a lawyer and father to two children. In the beginning of the book the county sheriff, Mr. Tate, asked him if we would defend Tom Robinson in court. He answered with a yes. Because Atticus is a white man and Tom is a black man, the white population believes that Atticus is a traitor because, back then, he was breaking a rule of conduct, which is not to help people of the opposite race. An incident where Atticus was mentally degraded was when Mr. Ewell spat in his face at the post office corner. "Mr. Bob Ewell stopped Atticus on the post office corner, spat in his face, and told him he'd get him if it took the rest of his life." (P.217).
Boo Radley is stereotyped in the novel by the citizens of Maycomb because of his choice to stay in his house all the time. Before the reader finds out that the reason Boo Radley stays inside his house is because he wants to, they make up a lot of rumors about his appearance and his habits. "When people's azaleas froze in a cold snap, it was because he had breather on them."(P.9). Jem also describes what he thought Boo Radley looked at behaved like at the beginning of the novel on page 13. "Boo was about six and a half feet tall, judging from his tracks, he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that's why his hands were blood-stained. There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face, his teeth were yellow and rotten, his eyes popped and he drooled most of the time." In the last chapter we are personally acquainted with Boo Radley and find out that he is not what people say he is like. He had silky white hands, sand stained khaki pants, torn denim shirt, thin cheeks, indentations on his temples and gray colorless eyes. (P.270)
There are many things people can do to help prevent prejudism and discrimination. The easiest and most important is simply to ignore it. It does not make a difference if you are black or white, African or American, male or female. You should always be treated the same no matter who you are. Tom Robinson, Atticus Finch and Boo Radley all suffered from the effects of prejudice. Unfortunately discrimination still occurs frequently today and will happen almost indefinitely.