Maycomb’s Racism Jem’s Character Development in To Kill a Mockingbird According to the Oxford dictionary, racism is the “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior.” Racism is something that many deal with from any age, any place, at any time, but a child has difficulty noticing racism and its repercussions. In the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Lee tells a story of three characters: Jem, Scout, and Dill. They live a quiet life in Maycomb, Alabama until Atticus Finch, Jem and Scout’s father, is appointed to defend Tom Robinson, an innocent African American man. The effects of the town’s racism in the trial is apparent in Jem’s actions …show more content…
During the trial, Jem has confidence in the fact that Tom Robinson would be innocent as a result of the court case. After Scout and Dill come back into the courtroom, Jem says to Scout, “and we’re gonna win, Scout. I don’t see how we can’t. He’s been at it ’bout five minutes. He made it as plain and easy as—well, as I’da explained it to you” (Lee 270). Jem fails to perceive how Tom’s skin color makes a great impact on the results of his trial. Jem believes that the jury will only be looking at the evidence provided by both sides to decide whether Tom is innocent or guilty. This is expressed through Jem’s confidence in the evidence provided from Tom Robinson’s case. To his understanding, the results of the trial were obvious and it was that Tom is innocent. Before the verdict of Tom Robinson’s trial, Jem is incognizant to how skin color has a major negative influence in Maycomb and in the trial as he is has yet to …show more content…
This is apparent when the jury comes back with the conclusion to the trial. Scout watches Jem’s reaction: “his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as it each “guilty” was a separate stab between them” (282). Jem’s reaction depicts his surprise as well as his views on Maycomb’s people shattering. He is completely blown back when the jury concludes that Tom is guilty. He had thought with all the evidence provided that Tom was going to be innocent, but when that did not happen he is in a state of shock and disillusionment. The morning after Tom’s trial, Jem, Scout, and Dill head over to Miss Stephanie’s house, where Miss Maudie is staying. Miss Maudie cuts a slice of cake and gives it to Jem. As he stares at his half eaten slice, Jem explains his thoughts: “I always thought Maycomb folks were the best folks in the world, at least that’s what they seemed like” (288). The verdict of Tom Robinson’s trial causes Jem to realize the extent of the racism in Maycomb. He notices the bigotry and prejudices that causes Tom, an innocent black man, to be sentenced to jail. Jem becomes disappointed with the folks in Maycomb because they treat others differently based on their skin tone. The miscarriage of justice in Tom Robinson’s trial makes Jem aware of racism and its harmful effects in Maycomb as well as makes him reevaluate his views on the
Tom Robinson was just a “respectable negro” with a kind nature who was accused in absence of wrong. Mr Robinson is immediately seen as an enemy by most in town of Maycomb. Is it because of his malicious personality? Is it because of his hair colour? Is it because he is arrogant? No, all of these are false he is instantly convicted because he is of a different ethnicity. It seems foolish but this is the reason why Maycomb has discarded a man who is of higher quality than the majority of the town. “Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella opened her mouth and screamed.” As soon as the trial began Tom’s opportunity for victory grew slimmer and slimmer and Maycomb knew that Atticus was fighting an unwinnable battle. But Atticus was determined to defend the ‘ultimate mockingbird’ right up until the end; even after the court case Atticus defends Tom at the jail. A final act of Tom’s innocence to prove his mockingbird status was whilst in court, he still didn’t want to accuse Mayella because “she seemed...
Jem knew from the start that Tom Robinson had no chance in winning a case against the Ewells. However, he deluded himself into thinking that that maybe the jury will be accepting and open-minded in that one case. Of course, that’s not what happened in the end; Tom Robinson is found guilty, causing Jem to question whether or not Maycomb is really the same as he remembered it from his childhood. This change in Jem especially shows when Scout comes to ask him about Hitler’s hatred towards all Jewish people during the Holocaust; Scout ends up comparing what her teacher said in class versus what that same teacher said outside the courthouse after the trial, and Jem was instantly reminded of the verdict:
Before the trial starts, Scout had to endure her classmates refer to Atticus as ‘nigger lover’ because of his defense of Tom. Scout and Jem also hear comments and gossip being made about their father in Maycomb, and they see the support Tom gains from the black community when they visit his church with Calpurna. The kids see the anger and evil of the society when they help Atticus from the lynch mob at the jail before the trial. Scout and Jem attend the trial in person, and they witness the evidence given and they agree that Atticus has made a substantial case for
Scout and Jem’s father, Atticus, is an ace lawyer who was asked to defend a black man named Tom Robinson. Tom was accused of raping a young white girl named Mayella Ewell. Tom Robinson ties into the symbolism of “killing a mockingbird” because his innocence resembles that of a mockingbird, and finding a victim like Tom guilty would compare to killing a mockingbird. Tom makes himself very suspicious, though, after he makes a remark during trial saying “looked like she didn’t have nobody to help her. Like I says… I felt right sorry for her” (264). Even though he truly did “feel sorry” for Mayella, no one believed him becaus...
In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, many different themes come into view. One major theme that played a big role in the character’s lives is racial prejudice. Racism is an unending problem throughout the book. The song “Message from a Black Man” by The Temptations has many similarities to the theme of racial discrimination. Therefore, both the novel and the song prove that racism was a great obstacle for some people at a point.
Although Tom Robinson is innocent, the Judge finds him guilty because Tom Robinson told the jury that “I felt sorry for her”(Lee 197). This symbolizes the judgement in social class because Tom knew he made a great mistake saying, to the town of Maycomb, that he felt sorry for a white female. This was a turning point during the trial because in Maycomb, people in a higher class viewed other lower classes as not important and no respect to them. Their judgment towards the lower classes based on their skin color or what they are wearing is how people in Maycomb divide themselves from one another. In addition, another judgmental aspect in To Kill a Mockingbird is racism. Someone who shows racism is called a racist, which is a major factor in the novel. On Jem’s birthday, Scout and Jem are
Having grown up in the home of a lawyer, Jem understands the ways of the courtroom and recognizes Atticus’ behavior in court. When Tom Robinson is put on trial for being accused of raping Mayella Ewell, Atticus is appointed his attorney. As questioning continues, Atticus blatantly proves it was impossible for Tom to even commit the crime. Jem says to Reverend Sykes, "...don't fret, we've won it....Don't see how any jury could convict on what we heard" (Lee 279). Jem’s response to Reverend Sykes comment
Tom Robinson is a virtuous and warm-hearted African American who works very hard to raise his own wife and kids everyday. He is reported that he hurts a white woman and takes advantage on her.Atticus was appointed by the court to defend Tom.Because of that, a lot of kids laugh at Scout and Jem so Jem and Scout do not really understand Atticus about why he wants to do this. As they are confused about their father’s choice, Atticus told Scout that this case is the one that he had to argue with, not because of the appointment, instead, he wanted to preserve the justice and truth. As the case going on, Jem and Scout are very excited and they all supply their father. When the judge finished and Scout lost the case, and Jem feels really upset too. “It was Jem’s turn to cry. His face was streaked with angry tears as we made our way through the cheerful crowd.” (243 Lee)As a kid, Jem not only thinks about his own thing, he also cares about Atticus’ case, he feels down when Atticus fail, this is the most obvious evidence of Jem’s growth and his admiration on
He teaches his children and peers many lessons. He mainly impacts the story by being different from others in the town. Atticus tells Scout, “I’m simply defending a Negro-his name’s Tom Robinson… Scout, you aren’t old enough to understand some things yet, but there’s been some high talk around town to the effect that I shouldn’t do much about defending this man…” (Lee 100). After Scout asks why he is defending Tom, he says, “The main one is, if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this country in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again” (Lee 100). Atticus defends Tom even though the whole town says it is wrong. He changes a few characters’ views on racism. He also started the beginning of equality in a courtroom. The jury voted Tom as guilty, but Atticus was still pleased with the trial. When Jem tells Atticus that the jury decided fast, Atticus says, “No it didn’t… That was one thing that made me think, well, this may be the shadow of a beginning. That jury took a few hours. An inevitable verdict, maybe, but usually it takes ‘em just a few minutes. This time… ”(Lee 297). Atticus made the jury so undecided that it took them hours to decide if the 2 white people were lying or the black man. He started a change in racism for the town of Maycomb.
A lesson learned by Scout and Jem is that the justice system in Maycomb is not fair. They begin to realize this when their father Atticus Finch is hired by Tom Robinson to defend him in court as he is being charged with the rape of Mayella Ewell, daughter of Bob Ewell. Jem and Scout learn that Tom was accused of committing this crime as he is man of colour, or a "nigger" as the white community in Maycomb like to identify him as. When defending Tom in court, Atticus says " Mayella Ewell was beaten savagely by someone who led almost exclusively with his left... Tom Robinson now sits before you, having taken the oath with the only good hand he possesses- his right hand." Pg. 222. This quote is the evidence of Tom Robinson being innocent, yet the jury of the court house in Maycomb still convicts Tom of committing a crime he did not commit. This is how Scout and Jem learn
At first, Scout believes that Tom Robinson could have raped Mayella Ewells but as she gets to know more about Tom and learns the thoughts of the people around her, she begins to question the case. During the trial, when Tom Robinson is on the stand, Scout could tell that Tom would never have hurt Ewell. There were also many facts making him innocent, but with Mayella's word against his not much could be done. “Tom Robinson was probably the only person who was ever decent to her. But she said he took advantage of her, and when she stood up she looked at him as if he were dirt beneath her feet” (Lee 218). Tom Robinson always helped Mayella Ewell with her chores when he found out that no one else helped the lonely girl. When her father finds out about her trying to seduce the African American, he becomes violent “Despite her situation, she loses the reader’s sympathy when she repays Tom’s kindness with open contempt and a lie that costs him his life” (“To Kill a Mockingbird”). Tom Robinson looks guilty to the racist south just because of the color of his skin. The jury and the Ewells should feel the guilt of leading an innocent man to his
Racial prejudice can be seen during the various instances in which Jem and Scout get teased at school because their father is defending a black man in court. In Chapter 9, Scout was starting to learn to not fight other children at school until an incident with Cecil Jacobs occurs. Scout narrates, “Cecil Jacobs made me forget. He had announced in the schoolyard the day before that Scout Finch’s daddy defended (African Americans)” (74). Another example of racial prejudice is Tom Robinson not getting a fair trial and being w0rongly accused of rape due to his race. Racial prejudice is frequently seen in To Kill A
Through the close study of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird we are challenged to consider the racist attitudes of 1930’s America and how good people in the world, symbolized by mockingbirds in the novel, can become corrupt and their innocence destroyed. To Kill A Mockingbird is narrated be a 6-year-old girl by the name of Scout, and, through this perspective, we discover a sense of the innocence, inquisitiveness and fun filled life that comes with childhood. However, the novel, set in the 1930’s and written in the 1960s also comments on the harshness of life and, through juxtaposing good and evil characters, Lee makes a powerful comment on the way people should treat each other and condemns the racist attitudes of the time. Through the sequence
This abuse of Tom’s sympathy is really unfair and Tom does not deserve this unjust conviction as he did nothing wrong. When the jury finally finds Tom guilty, there is no way how anybody could not feel disappointment towards the way the case ends because the court is suppose to save the innocent not the guilty. In today’s standards, this ordeal would have never happen as there would be a fair jury, judge, and more evidence to back up both sides giving the case a fair trial, but because of the racism of the jury this case is completely one sided. Atticus knows that the jury is discriminating Tom but he has hope, at the end of his rebuttal he says, “A court is only as sound as the jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up.”(274). Atticus being such a modern man in his time, he can see the differences between the people of Maycomb; he can recognize the racism towards the black community but he abominates the discrimination; for him to have hope really makes the situation more dramatic.
Tom Robinson’s trial, and in fact his entire life, was badly affected by racism. It is truly a testament to the corruption of society when a person who has earned a bad reputation is held in higher esteem than a person who was born with it, as is the case with Bob Ewell and Tom Robinson. Even though Tom was obviously honest in his testament, the jury sided with Bob Ewell because he was white. They made this decision despite the fact that the Ewell family was widely known to be a worthless part of society. Jem, not being racially prejudiced, could not understand this mentality. As Atticus pointed out, “If you (Jem) had been on the jury, son, and eleven other boys like you, Tom would be a free man.”