Cultural Relevance of To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbirdis an iconic novel which exposes timeless themes and issues which are just as relevant today as they were when the novel was written and set. This legendary text explored the prejudice of Maycomb, a town in the Deep South during the 1930’s, and the racist society a black man faces when is if wrongfully accused of raping a white girl. To Kill a Mockingbirdis narrated in first person by Scout, a protagonist in the story, whose childhood is tainted with racism and prejudice by the society she lives in. Scout’s father Atticus is a well-respected lawyer in Maycomb who strongly represents the timeless themes and moral values explored in the story. It is through this voice that he guides young Scout and her brother Jem to becoming good, honest people.

Courage is pushing through your fears and seeing something through to the end, no matter what the result may be. The power and strength of this timeless theme is represented by Mrs Dubose, an elderly neighbour of Jem and Scout. Both Jem and Scout are terrified of Mrs Dubose, calling her vicious. Mrs Dubose is a metaphorical representation of the toxicity surrounding prejudice and racism in Maycomb. The taunts and ridicule of Mrs Dubose are stereotypical of the community’s attitude towards?n*gger lovers’, however as the story progresses we begin to see Mrs Dubose from a different perspective.Mrs Dubose is very ill and is addicted to the morphine that minimizes her pain and it is when we learn of her determination to beat this addiction that the courage of her character becomes clear. She uses Jem reading to her as a distraction, in order for her to gradually break away from her addiction. Despite Scout’s opinion on Mrs Dubose, we still see the pain and fear that she experiences each time the alarm is about to ring. Mrs Dubose shows true courage by refusing to give in to her addiction and fighting of her urges directly in the face of fear. Although she isheavily infected by the disease of prejudice, the courage Mrs Dubose shows balances out the evil within her and it is through this that Jem and Scout learn that it is possible for both good and evil to coexist in the one person. Atticus teaches his children that real courage is ” ¦when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what, ? It is this that teaches Jem and Scout the importance of courage.

Not only does Atticus teach the value and importance of courage to his children, he personifies his teachings through his choice to defend Tom Robinson in court. Despite the hostility of the town towards Atticus’ choice, he stands by his moral beliefs by continuing to do what he believes is right, ” ¦if I didn’t I couldn’t hold my head up in town, I couldn’t represent this country in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again”. Atticus’ unwavering determination to defend Tom Robinson in court, where no guns are used, shows the audience just how deep Atticus’ courage runs. The goodness and justified views of Atticus are greatly juxtaposed by Bob Ewell. Bob’s decision to attack Jem and Scout after the pageant, rather than face Atticus man-to-man exposes his cowardice. Harper Lee expresses the importance of true courage through Atticus throughout Tom Robinson’s trial, telling us that we should always hold onto our beliefs and do what is right.

Justice is a timeless theme which is explored deeply in To Kill a Mockingbirdthrough Boo Radleyand Tom Robinson. This theme is highly relevant to the storyline and it is through these two central characters that the importance and value of justice is shown to the modern audience. Both Boo and Tom are symbols of the mockingbird, never causing harm. At the beginning of the story, Boo is perceived to be a “malevolent phantom ? which haunts Maycomb. We see the prejudice of Maycomb towards Boo Radley through the Boo Radley Games played by Jem, Scout and Dill. These games show us how Maycomb’s prejudice attitudes impact the children’s views on the town outcast. As we advance through the novel we are shown how Jem and Scout learn that we cannot judge others ” ¦until you climb into his skin and walk around in it ?. We see the sever injustice Boo experiences at the hands of his own family through his captivity in his own home. The small gifts he leaves in the knothole are a metaphorical representation of his urge to re-join the society that rejects him. At the end of the novel we finally see Scout truly understand Atticus’ teachings when she stands on the Radley’s porch and looks out onto the street from what would have been Boo’s perspective for many years. Justice is served for Boo when Heck Tate disregards Boo’s actions because ” ¦it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, ?

Tom Robinson is another character that symbolises the mockingbird and also represents the theme of justice in To Kill a Mockingbird.The racism he experiences and the discrimination against him becomes so severe that his life is threatened. In the trial scene, the cockiness and disrespect displayed by Bob and Mayella Ewell shows the audience that they truly are “white trash ?. Their hardened belief that because they are white, their word is worth more than Tom Robinson’s also backs up this image of the Ewell’s. Atticus however, proves Tom’s innocence through contradicting evidence provided by the Ewell’s. Atticus maintains his moral voice by appealing to the better nature of the men in the jury, stating that ” ¦in our courts all men are created equal, ? By the end of the trial, the justice system has failed Tom and Atticus when the jury delivers their verdict of Tom being guilty. It is in the trial scene that we see the greatest injustice in the story. Atticus proves Tom’s innocence and yet he is still deemed guilty, proving that the people of Maycomb hold racial discrimination over justice and truth. This decision is essentially killing the mockingbird. Tom Robinson was a man that inflicted no harm onto anyone, but simply because of the colour of his skin he is labelled a villain, making him a victim of a racist society. The theme of justice is shown through the mockingbird symbol, Tom Robinson. This metaphorical representation exposes the darkness within Maycomb and shows the audience that importance of justice and equality and the consequences of its absence.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic tale which presents powerful themes which are still relevant in today’s society. Scout’s view on the world is initially very naA?ve and oblivious to the infectious society she lives in, often mistaking the evils surrounding her as being normal. Courage and justice are two themes running side by side in this novel which have been depicted through multiple characters and situations. Mrs Dubose is a grouchy and prejudice infected neighbour who fights through her addiction, directly in the face of fear, teaching the audience the benefits of courage when it is used for the right reasons. Atticus’ representation of courage during the Tom Robinson trial showcases the power of true courage and it’s undying worth. Justice is shown through Tom Robinson and Boo Radley, both mockingbird symbols and both labelled villains in their town despite doing no wrong. In the end Boo is saved and Tom is killed, showing the importance of maintaining justice and equality. Harper Lee has managed to leave a lasting effect on today’s society through her representations of these timeless themes through the eyes of a young girl whose childhood teaches us the relevance of justice and courage in today’s modern society.

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