To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

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In the classic 1960 novel of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee uses irony to reveal Maycomb’s true colors of prejudice, racism, and hypocrisy. The “tired old town” seems ideal and peaceful on the surface, but as the story progresses, it becomes evident that the town is a biased, racist community. (p. 5) The author’s irony helps the reader interpret the actual hypocritical views of the story’s characters. Simon Finch, Miss Merriweather and the Missionary Society, and Miss Gates all show the existence of discriminatory and impartial views that surround the town. Their actions contradict their words and seemingly positive intentions, showing their real ignorance.
Simon Finch, one of the Finch’s first ancestors to come to America, fled Europe to escape religious prosecution. He was “irritated by the persecution” and came searching for the freedom to practice his own religious views. (p. 4) However, upon arrival, he “bought three slaves” for Finches Landing, depriving them of their own freedom. (p.4) Slavery is immoral, and strips blacks of their basic rights. Of course, it didn’t matter to any white who was living at the time, as blacks were undoubtedly inferior to them. Simon Finch was “possess[ing] human chattels”, and he exposed blacks to similar circumstances that he tried to avoid. (p. 4) His behavior is clearly deceptive, considering that he came to America for freedom, while at the same time taking away another’s liberty. Harper Lee introduces this example at the very beginning of the book, setting up the hypocritical and prejudice tone of the novel.
Ms. Merriweather and the Missionary Circle are yet another example of the underlying prejudice and hypocrisy that is hinted by Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird. The ladies discuss about the “poor Mrunas”, an African tribe that is being converted to Christianity by “saintly J. Grimes Everett”. (p. 263) The author states, “Mrs. Merriweather’s large brown eyes always filled with tears when she considered the oppressed”, in a form of satire, disclosing the true hypocrisy of these women. (p. 263) Mrs. Merriweather then talks about “The poverty… the darkness… the immorality” of the Mrunas. (p. 263) This is deceiving because the whites’ racism in Maycomb is what is causing African Americans to suffer in their own town. This doesn’t happen to concern Ms. Merriweather, as she turns a blind eye to the maltreated in her own backyard. She sympathizes for the minority in Africa because they live a depressed life, but is oblivious to the rough standards of the blacks in her own locality.

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These so-called “Christian” women are praising the man who is helping blacks in Africa, but they are against Atticus, who is fighting for the justice of blacks in their own community. Instead, calling him a “N***** lover”.
Mrs. Merriweather’s words are also very contradicting, because she begins by showing her deep respect for J. Grimes Everett for helping the Mrunas, but just a few moments later, she complains that “… there’s nothing more distracting than a sulky darky.” (p. 264) This clearly conveys the hypocrisy of these women, as they go from sympathizing for the blacks, to completely disregarding and insulting them.
Miss Gates, Scout’s third-grade teacher, shares similar hypocritical views with Mrs. Merriweather. While talking about current events during class, Miss Gates preaches democracy and equal rights for all. She states, “We don’t believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudice.” (p. 281) Miss Gates commiserates for the Jews, who “have been persecuted since the beginning of history”. (p. 281) However, because she so deeply believes in the superiority of whites over blacks, saying that “[Blacks] were getting’ way above themselves”, Miss Gates overlooks a similar situation occurring in Maycomb. (p. 283) The white majority was doing the same to African-Americans by enslaving them and treating them as third-class citizens. Even more ironic, Scout had heard Miss Gates say, “it’s time somebody taught [the blacks] a lesson”, after Tom Robinson’s sentence.
In reality, the town that “had nothing to fear but fear itself” is not the quiet and tranquil place, as it appears to be. The use of irony in this book helps to reveal the underlying and true views of the unjust, discriminatory, and biased town.

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