Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 3

Huynh Cong Bang (10) 432 Examine the different forms of prejudice that occur in the novel.

How has Harper Lee made her own views about prejudice clear? In the novel To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee, prejudice is the main theme guiding the entire story in Maycomb County. It can be thought as the trunk of a giant tree where many events, both minor and major, branch out, taking shape of the mindset of almost everybody in Maycomb. This helps Lee convey clearly to the readers the very own views of her about prejudice. Through characterisation, Harper Lee shows that prejudice exists in Maycomb under different forms but they all originate from a common point, which is generalisation. Generalisation refers to the simplified stereotypes about others, in which Maycomb people reduce each individual to, as well as commonly regard him as characteristics he shares with his family. For instance, Aunt Alexandra calls these characteristics streaks and she assigns every family in Maycomb with one: A Drinking Streak, a Gambling Streak, a Mean Streak, a Funny Streak. This narrow-minded type of thinking promotes prejudice as one rigidly imposes his own judgements without considering its justice or validity. Another common point is that there exists the need to feel as though you are better than someone else within the Maycomb residents. One example showing this is the comment of Scout when Walter Cunningham Jr is having dinner with the Finch: But hes gone and drowned his dinner in syrup. Hes poured it all over. Scout may be considering Walters way of dining uncivilised based on the assumption that her own way is better and she herself is better. On a larger scale, the white men discriminate the coloured men, calling them trashes, giving them the hell [] without even stopping to think that theyre people too, This mindset slowly divides the community, and overtime corrodes the conscience and morals of the children, only to sharpen the image of a more racist Maycomb County. The very fact that Scout makes a remark of Walter truly proves that. Lee shows that racial prejudice, or racism, appears to be the most blatant and rampant throughout the entire novel. It is the prejudice of the white men against the coloured men, leaving the coloured men at many disadvantages relating to their basic rights, their voices in the society and so on. Separation of the society is observed as evidence: Negroes worshipped in [First Purchase Church] on Sundays and white men gambled in it on weekdays. [] They got their church, we got ourn. The contrast that a holy place of the Negroes is no more than a playground of the white men reflects how the Negroes are looked down on in the community they have no value, they gain no respect and they receive no rights. Almost all coloured men are illiterate because the state education does not go to them, because they are denied of the basic right to gain intellectuality. There are many other instances when the benefits of the white men must precede those of the coloured. One of such instances occurs before the court as the Negroes, having waited for the white people to go upstairs began to come in. The white are always put first and the Negroes later, only because of the difference in their appearance. But worst of all, there exists an evil assumption that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around [white] women, an assumption one associates with minds of their calibre. Because of this assumption, in [Maycomb] courts, when its a white mans word against a black man, the white man always win, thus there is no way Tom Robinson is innocent, and so there is no way the jury which is made up of all white men can exonerate him. Everything Tom testifies in front of the jury is lies, although so ironically it is not. Prejudice has bent and distorted the truth, the truth that states

immorality, lies and distrust are found in the human race, without restraining within any particular race of men. This leads to the inevitable consequence: Tom Robinson is convicted guilty, and in an attempt to fight for his own freedom he is killed. Lee purposely creates this twist without giving a happy ending as many readers may expect in order to emphasise that racial prejudice has robbed the life of one man, due solely to his colour. Racial prejudice has also ruined the morals and conscience as well as extinguished hope and faith of the young generation. Jem has asked in doubt and distrust: If theres just one kind of folks, why cant they get along with each other? If theyre all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Lee also expresses her views about social prejudice being another form of prejudice mainly through plot and characterisation. In part I of the novel, Boo Radley is the main focus of prejudice. At the very beginning of the novel he is introduced as a malevolent phantom lived inside the house, and any stealthy crimes committed in Maycomb were his work even though Boo merely does not do anything harmful to anybody, and although the culprit was Crazy Addie, [] people still looked at the Radley Place, unwilling to discard their initial suspicions. This clearly shows how corrosive and impactful prejudice is, as it bars them, not from the truth itself but from the state of accepting the truth and doing the right things. Again generalisation and simplified assumption are seen here, serving as agents catalysing for the process of isolating and ostracising a man from his society. Moreover, the fact that the Radley family is anti-social augments the prejudice from the rest of the county: The shutters and foors of the Radley house were closed on Sundays the day when most people did their visiting, they didnt go to church but rather worship at home, and most importantly, Boo Radley was locked up inside the Radley house after getting into trouble. Nobody knows exactly what happened but they pass rumours around: town gossip attributed all strange happenings and that is probably the main reason why they are often misunderstood and prejudiced against. Boo never comes out because he wants to stay inside this is his freedom of choice. Rumours about them are all false as they are three-fourths coloured folks and one-fourth Stephanie Crawford. That is one of the reasons why Boo Radley is a mockingbird: he is innocent and vulnerable in front of the whole Maycomb. Along with Boo, Lee creates the Ewells to be at the centre of social prejudice. Atticus said they were absolute trash [Scout] never heard Atticus talk about folks the way he talked about the Ewells. Throughout the story, the Ewells are nothing but a disgrace of the community: they are parasites that live on the charity of Maycomb, yet pose problems. At the very first school day of Scout, Burris Ewell, who has no manners, gives Miss Caroline a short contemptuous snort as a response, insulting her, calling her a snot-nosed slut of a school-teacher and waiting until she is crying before he leaves. His father, Bob Ewell, appears to be rude and uncivilised. For example, after the trial, Bob Ewell approached [Atticus], spat on him and threaten to kill him. And as a result of all this, Mayella seems to suffer: White people wouldnt have anything to do with her because she lived among pigs; Negroes wouldnt have anything to do with her because she was white. She is a victim of cruel poverty and ignorance, but [Atticus] cannot pity her: she is white. By portraying bad images of the Ewells, Lee again conveys the prejudice of the whole town: everybody in Maycomb disgusts and despises them. In conclusion, Maycomb County and its people are creations of Harper Lee which exhibit fully her personal views of different levels of prejudice. With the use of characterisation and plot throughout the novel, she has put across the message that most of the time, prejudice is a cruel thing because it

divides people, creates stereotypes, hatred and misbeliefs, as well as badly affects the morals and conscience of many people, especially the children. However, sometimes prejudice can be justified if and only if the prejudiced one is sinister.