Racism & Intolerance
Most whites in Maycomb think black people are inferior -
1) Scout asks Cal why she uses "******-talk"
2) General opinion of Tom's death - "typical of a ****** to cut and run"
3) Reverend Skyes - never known a jury take a black man's word against a white
4) Mrs Dubose - Atticus is a "******-lover" - others are also angry he's defending
Characters use racist words without a second thought -
1) Scout - "******" without thinking until Atticus tells her not to - others do too
2) Characters use because they don't think they're offensive - common to think black people are less important
Racism in the town -
1) No school for black people in Maycomb - Cal had to teach her kids
2) When Tom Rob in jail, group come for him - think he's guilty as he's black
3) Ewells are lowest of low but their word taken over a black person's
"this summer's going to be a hot one" - metaphor hot tempered/busy (Atc.)
Cont. Racism & Intolerance
Harper Lee wants to change people's racist attitudes -
1) Makes atticus honourable to encourage readers to agree with his p.o.v
2) Makes racist characters seem horrible e.g. Mrs Dubose & Mr Ewell
3) Examples of racist behaviour are described to show they're wrong
4) Wrote in 1950s - many were still racist - tries to change this through writing
Tom's trial is the focus of the racism in the book -
1) People aren't afraid to show their views on the trial - Scout & Jem receive insults from children and adults - Atticus "******-lover"
2) First - Aunt Alexandra is ashamed Atticus is defending - inferior
3) After the trial, Scout sees how unfair things are - big part of her development
Atticus is prepared to stand up against prejudice -
1) Atc. knows Tom is innocent - he calls racism Maycomb's "usual disease"
2) Atc. realises - hard to change so many people have believed their whole lives
3) Atc. knows he is "fighting our friends" but wants justice
Cont. Racism & Intolerance
Towards end things may be starting to change -
1) All hears Atc. defending Tom at trial - he says things to challenge their views
2) Jury take several hours & one argues Tom's innocence
- Miss Maudie - "baby-step" towards a more equal and tolerant society
3) Mr Link Deas gives Helen Rob a job & stands up for her
4) Miss Maudie explains that Atc. is trusted by many to do right thing
- Aunt Alexandra accepts Atc. might be right towards end
But many still see black people as 2nd class citizens -
1) Missionary ladies - Atc. shouldn't have stirred up trouble by defending Tom
2) Jury say guilty - even though its obvious he's innocent
3) Maycomb loses interest after 2 days - looks like trial has changed nothing
1) Boo Radley - people gossip as he doesn't come out the house
2) Walter Cunningham - Aunt Al. > Scout, he's beneath her
3) CHILDREN - "why don't you get a coloured man" Jem > Miss Maudie
Atticus thinks empathy is really important
1) Jem & Scout learn lessons from Atc - "You never really understand a person...until you climb into his skin..." (pg33) - main message of book
2) Jem & Scout hate Mrs Dubose at 1st. But then understand COURAGE - "I wanted you to see what real courage is instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand" (pg124) Structure - chap 10 & 11
3) Atticus encourages them to empathise with everyone - even Bob Ewell
4) Boo Radley - "malevolent phantom" > "reasonable recluse" > "gentleman"
5) Others empathy - Mr Underwood rights article - it was a "senseless slaughter"
Maycomb aren't too great at empathy
1) Racism & intolerance are rife as white ppl can't imagine what it's like to be black - after Tom Rob death - Mrs Merriweather > Maid "sulky darky" - upset about Tom - she's not sympathetic - only thinks about herself
2) Dolphus Raymond - pretends to be drunk - gives people an excuse for his relationship with a black woman (chap 20)
Childhood & Growing Up
Scout, Jem & Dill learn about life
1) People aren't always what they seem - Boo - saves their lives
2) Atc. called "One-Shot Finch" when younger - surprised as seems old to them
3) View of evil - Boo at start but then see real evil - prejudice & Bob Ewell
4) Near end - Scout = mature & sensitive - takes Boo home (makes seem like he's helping her so people don't see)
Longing for childhood innocence
1) Lee spends a lot of time describing childhood friendships, games, dares
2) Shows she thinks of it as a special time
3) By chap 11, they are allowed to go to town and move away from games
Gradually innocence fades away
1) In pt 2 Jem changes. Dill under bed - Jem tells Atc. (pg155) "you oughta.."
2) Lee never allows the children's innocence to be lost completely - Jem is still quite young - Mennonites - beards - wives tickled - childish
Cont. Childhood & Growing Up
Structure of Book - 2 Parts- Reader & Scout learn simultaneously
- Pt 1 = Reader learns lessons the children learn - over 2 years
- Pt 2 = Serious lessons for all - focus on trial - few months
- Crux in middle (in order to see aftermath) - irregular shape
- Cake quote shows them growing up (pg 47) "she made a big cake..."
Style of Book
- Linear chronological narrative
- First point of view (of scout)
Good reason for using child's perspective
1) Allows room for humour & irony - very different from Scout's interpretation
2) Children all provide hope for the future, they're the next generation and they've realised it is wrong to treat black people as they've been treated in the past.
When Miss Maudie says the town has taken a "baby-step" towards becoming a more equal place, you can see that the children will play a part in taking bigger steps in the future.
Scout doesn't like school
1) Miss Caroline Fisher - doesn't make a good 1st impression - tells Scout off for already knowing how to read and write (chap 2)
2) Miss Gates - can't see that Hitler's persecution of Jews is similar to how people treat black people in America - Scout can - (chap 26) - hears her "it's time somebody taught 'em a lesson"
3) Scout tries to persuade Atc. that she doesn't need to go to school - hates it so much - even takes up swearing so he thinks its a bad influence - Atc says no.
- Formal school education isn't available to everyone. (not black)
Scout & Jem learn a lot from their father
1) Atc. teaches Scout - fight battles with head not fists "hold your head high, keep your fists high" - Atticus tries to give Scout and Jem a moral education - treat everyone with respect and behave with empathy
2) Scout & Jem learn that Mrs Dubose isn't just an awful woman, she's brace because she's determined to break her morphine addiction before she dies
3) Scout - Injustice - 1st - casually uses "******" > end sees how bad
It's not just the children who are educated
1) Mr Cunningham educated outside jail (chap15) - Scouts chatter makes him realise what he is doing is wrong
2) One of the Cunningham's is on the jury - he says Tom's innocent - the family's respect for Atc. has changed them "baby-step"
3) Aunt Alexandra - 1st - against Atc. defending Tom > end - is sorry for him
Family & Social Class & Maycomb
Important in Maycomb - which family you're from
1) Worsts whites (Ewells) are seen as better than the best blacks
2) Family background is very important - but they think all blacks are the same - e.g. Tom Rob. "typical ******" even though he is family man & attends church
It's impossible to escape your family background
1) Families are "utterly predictable to on another" (Scout) Crawfords = gossip
2) Scout & Jem are insulted by Atc. taking case - it reflects on whole fam
1) Full of gossip - "people said.." (pg9)
2) Set in ways - Teacher & lunch money "He's a Cunningham" certain people fit better - "Aunt Alexandra fitted...like a hand in a glove" (pg145) simile - traditional
3) "tired old town" - personification
4) Scout - "there's just one kind of folks. Folks"
Innocence & Bravery
The children are innocent at the start
1) Scout has loads to learn about the people around her - Walter round for dinner incident (chap3) - also can't see what's wrong with the way black people are treated until towards the end when she's grown up a lot
2) Jem - becomes less innocent because of the injustice he sees around him - at the end he can't bear to hear about the trial - it's upset him so much
Tom Robinson is an innocent man
1) He felt sorry for Mayella - tried to help her and actually did nothing wrong
2) He didn't actually **** Mayella but white's word taken over black's.
Story shows you don't have to be strong or aggressive to be brave
1) Atc. is most obvious - stands up for what he thinks is right - mob at jail
2) Mrs Dubose - goes through much pain to die free of addiction
3) Boo saves children
4) Bob Ewell - coward - goes after children as can't face Atc.
Mockingbirds represent the innocence of people like Boo and Tom Rob who are persecuted even though they do no wrong and only try to help others. Atc. tells the children they can shoot all the bluejays they want, but "it's a sin to kill a mockingbird". Later on, Mr Underwood writes about Tom's death, he says it's like the "senseless slaughter of songbirds"