Exploring To Kill a Mocking Bird

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Exploring the American Novel To Kill a Mocking Bird

Good Morning

I have been given the task of speaking to you about American
literature and the impact that specific books may have on Australian
readers. In particular my main focus today will concentrate on the
issue of racial prejudice. One of my favourite books comes to mind
when discussing this topic because it effectively argues for
multi-ethnicity from different vantage points.

“To Kill a Mocking Bird” is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Harper
Lee, based on the defence of an obviously innocent African-American
man, charged with raping a young white girl. One of the books
important themes involves the threat that hatred, prejudice and
ignorance poses to the innocent. Though society has changed greatly
since the release of this book, the strength of the issues relayed in
classics such as this one will never lose their appeal.

While reading the American novel “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, it was
obvious to me that this book was an example of one instance when right
does not triumph. As uncertain as the political climate may be in
parts of the world today, it was extremely more volatile in the 30’s,
which was when To Kill a Mocking Bird was set. The book takes place
in a small Alabama town, where racial equality was non-existent. The
novel begins with Scout Finch, who is now an adult remembering the
summer when her brother, Jem broke his arm and recalling the incidents
that led to this event. She introduces her hometown Maycomb Alabama,
her father Atticus Finch, attorney, Calpurnia their “Negro” cook and
housekeeper, Dill and various neighbours.

Despite the fact that Calpurnia was a Negro she was very influential
in the character building of the two children. She was like a mother
figure to them and taught them tolerance that took them beyond the
prejudices of Maycomb society. She treated the children as her equal,
rather than a black or white person. Calpurnia wanted the children to
experience a different attitude towards race and prejudice. Therefore
she took them to her church where and they sang and prayed. They felt
welcomed by the black community and knew that this acceptance was
probably due to the fact the their father, Atticus had supported Tom
and believed in his innocence.

While there are plenty of civil rights injustices to be found in the
news headlines today, our attitude towards race relations has changed
dramatically. The book however, reveals that to live in the 1930’s
and be black meant living a life as an inferior being. The attitude
of the townsfolk in this book was to let things stay as they had

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always been in the south.

This opinion became evident on a number of occasions throughout the
book, for instance when Atticus decides to defend a black man accused
of raping a white woman, Jem and Scout get into a fight with
classmates who call Atticus a “nigger lover”. Despite the significant
evidence pointing to Tom’s innocence, the all-white jury convict him.
Jems discovery of the evil of racism during and after the trial leaves
him in a state of disillusionment, whereas Scout is able to maintain
her basic faith in human nature despite Tom’s conviction. Ultimately
Tom escapes from prison and is shot to death.

The shocking fact remains that no one seemed to care that an innocent
man was dead for no other reason than being black. That is except the
Finch family, who are the inspiration in this novel. Atticus taught
his children to question a situation, have an opinion about life and
above all display human kindness. One particular paragraph explains
his response to racial prejudice – it says “But let me tell you
something and don’t you forget it. As you grow older you’ll see white
men cheat black men every day of your life – whenever a white man does
that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine
a family he comes from, that white man is trash”. This statement is a
clear message to not only Americans or Australians, but all mankind,
to treat human beings equally no matter what there colour or race.

It appears that the moral voice of To Kill a Mocking Bird is embodied
by Atticus Finch, who understands that, rather than being simply
creatures of good or evil, most people have both good and bad
qualities. What this piece of literature has taught society is to
appreciate the good qualities and understand the bad qualities of
people by treating others with sympathy and trying to learn life from
there perspective.


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