The Extent To kill a Mockingbird critiques the cultural values of Maycomb Society

The Extent To kill a Mockingbird critiques the cultural values of Maycomb Society

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‘To kill a Mockingbird’ is a strong reflection of Harper Lee, the author’s, upbringing. Having been raised in the small town of Alabama in the 1920’s she was frequently exposed to prejudice and this inspired her to write a book, her only to date, loosely based on her early days. Tom Robinson’s trial, set in Maycomb County, is a parallel to the Scottsboro Trial, which was an infamous case during Lee’s childhood, where a ‘negro’ was accused of rape. However the emphasis is based more on the lawyer, Atticus Finch, who defends him, as the book is written from the perspective of his daughter, Jean Louise, known as ‘Scout’.
Throughout, an importance is placed on the fact that ‘it's a sin to kill a mockingbird’ as they only ‘sing their hearts out for us’ and ‘don't eat up people's gardens’. This is a comment on the fact that Maycomb society victimises Tom Robinson, despite the fact that he is harmless and only does good, just like the mockingbird. This symbolic meaning resulted in the title ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ rather than the initial name ‘Atticus’ as the publishers felt the book was not solely based on Atticus as a person. On the contrary, they felt the values of Maycomb society such as social division and status, racial prejudice, double standards, integrity and courage were the focuses of the book.
It is important to appreciate the advantages a child narrator brings to a novel of this kind, due to Scout’s innocence and youth she does not understand certain social infrastructures which complicate the adult world, thus exposing Maycomb in a way that an adult narrator could not. This allows Harper Lee to critique the values of Maycomb society in a more subtle manner, for example Scout does not judge people, but instead explains...

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...ociety to a vast extent. It comments on the foundations of Maycomb as an isolated and inward looking society which allows racial prejudice to grow. The social division, stereotyping and prejudice are also emphasized as each family has a ‘streak’ and Tom Robinson’s case is as simple as ‘black and white’ Harper Lee also exposes the double standards and hypocrisy of the citizens of Maycomb, by using irony and giving the reader a perspective that the charters cannot see. At the forefront of all of the happenings in this book is Atticus Finch, who is represented as an honest man with strong values, he is a contrast to most people in Maycomb, and he shows us what it is to be a gentleman. Although Harper Lee does allow the reader to see some hope for Maycomb society and the changing racial attitudes within it, she generally criticizes their values to a much deeper extent.

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