To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee is one of the most vehement novels that break the tradition of ‘ part pour l’art’ and proceeds to provide some strong lessons. Racism and classism are one of its major themes, and in course of exploration of such a theme, it teaches sternly that ”you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around with them”. Set in a southern place called Maycomb County, Harper Lee has used multiple characters to develop this theme. Of all colors, the color of prejudice is common in all the people of the place save a few including the protagonist, Atticus Finch. The more important thing about the theme of the novel is that it was published in 1960 when the heat of the Civil Rights Movement was still on in America. Atticus acts as the mouthpiece of the writer and spreads the message of equality and fraternity.
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The theme of judging
Aunt Alexandra is a character that is based on class. She wants her niece, Scout Finch, to choose her friends, keeping in mind that whether they are their “kind of folks” or not. She is reluctant to allow Scout to invite Walter Cunningham home to dinner. She is apprehensive about the habits of Cunninghams. There is a sense of superiority in her persona regarding the class and status they belong to and in the same notion, she thinks of others as comparatively inferior. She wishes to maintain the age-old name of the Finch Family.
Similarly prejudiced is Mrs. Grace Merriwater. She is a lady of fine sensibilities and an emotional heart. But she too takes the things in the light of surface appearance. She believes in stereotyped black people. She is particular about “Christian Home” and “Christian Folks” and thinks that in the black home there is nothing but “Sin and squalor” She cannot understand that if she was to live the life like them, she would also be sunk deep in the filth which she detests.” There is nothing more distracting than a sulky darky” says Mrs. Grace Merriwater without getting the point that the negligence by white fellows make their life even sulkier
Scout and Jem, together are the third example. They cherish excessive misconceptions about Radleys and Boo Radley in particular. They have their castle of prejudice as constructed from the stories heard and a few of their hypothesis. They think of Boo Radley as a “malevolent phantom” and his place as the symbolism of illness and cold. Meeting Arthur after the night of the incident comes to Scout as a great surprise and she finally gets to understand that it is not proper to judge any man until you take his position and live his life in his circumstances. Then comes a realization “that Boos Children needed him”.
There are other characters too that act in a similar prejudiced manner in some way or the other. For instance, Dill and Ewells. Miss Stephanie Crawford neighbor of Finches gives information, true and false, to Jem. We find that self-complacency and misconceptions run through one’s mind when one thinks of others in some negative shades. It is self-centeredness in Aunt Alexandra and Mrs. Grace Merriwater that makes them not see others in their positions although they are Christian ladies fearing God. Jem and Scout think fearfully about Radley place due to the false notions in their mind. The lesson of shedding the misapprehensions regarding the lives of others runs through the whole novel. Harper Lee has exploited a substantial theme to write a substantial novel.