Prejudice Essay To Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird Prejudice Essay

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?To Kill a Mockingbird Essay William Hazlitt once said “Prejudice is the child of ignorance”. In To Kill a Mockingbird the author, Harper Lee, illustrates this idea through real life events. The three main types of prejudice are racial, social and gender. As Scout and Jem mature they both see all the evil that is in their small, old town of Maycomb, Alabama. In Maycomb the same families have been living there for a long time so the same families are passing on their ignorance generation to generation causing the prejudice that affects so many people in the town.

Prejudice is driven by ignorance. At the beginning of To Kill a Mockingbird we are introduced to a character that no one knows, Boo Radley. He is a mysterious figure that Scout, Jem and Dill are intrigued to see. Jem and Scout had heard rumors of Boo Radley from people, they said he was a malevolent phantom, that he went out when it was dark and commited small crimes and ate squirrels and and anything else he could catch. Jem would always run across the sidewalk when passing the Radley place on his way to school.

Jem and Scout were scared out of ignorance, they believed everything they heard from other people but never actually had a hint of any knowledge about Boo Radley or why never comes out of his house. They start to receive gifts from Boo although they don’t know it right away because it was in the knot of an old tree by the Radley lot. They continue to receive gifts such as a spelling bee medal and two soap dolls but one day when Jem was going to check the tree he saw Mr. Radley filling the knot with cement. Jem was very sentimental about this because he thought that Mr Radley was being cruel to Boo, not letting him communicate with anybody.

This is when the children began to believe that Boo was not the ghost that he believed to be. Secondly is the case against Tom Robinson. Tom Robinson, a Negro, was accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell who is the daughter of Bob Ewell the nastiest man in Maycomb. During the trial Atticus, the defendants lawyer, asks Heck Tate about Mayellas injuries, he says that she had been beaten and bruised, with a black eye on the right side of her face. Atticus then asks Bob Ewell to write his name on an envelope. Bob Ewell does as he is told and Atticus notices that he is left handed.

This proves that Tom Robinson could not have beat her because he cannot even move his left arm because he got it caught in a cotton gin when he was twelve. If Bob Ewell was left handed it would make perfect sense that he could have beat Mayella and bruised her right eye. It also makes sense with Tom Robinson’s story. That Mayella was trying to hug him and kiss him and Bob Ewell saw her and beat her because it was the lowest thing a white person could do, kiss a black man. All the evidence was there and against Bob Ewell but when the jury came out, they said Tom was guilty.

This an example of racial prejudice, just because the colour of the man convicted of rape was black the jury said he was guilty due to ignorance. It would be almost blasphemous to let a black man walk away from any crime he was accused of committing; the jury ignored all the evidence simply because Tom Robinson was black. Lastly is the gender prejudice that comes up frequently during the events in this book. The most specific or main event showing gender prejudice is after the trial. Jem asked Atticus why people like them and Miss.

Maudie could not serve in the jury. Atticus told Jem that Miss. Maudie could not serve in the trial because she was a woman. Scout was quite confused with why women could not be in the jury. This is an example of gender prejudice because men are too ignorant to realize that woman are equal or even acknowledge the fact that they can choose to act how they please, not follow the stereotypical or traditional way of how to act like a woman or dress like one. There are many more examples of gender prejudice but this is the only example that directly states and shows it.

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Through all of Jem and Scouts journey they have experienced many types of prejudice and have tryed to deal with them. The root of prejudice is the ignorance. Ignorance of narrow minded people who assume things without having any knowledge of the matter. I do not know if there is a way to stop prejudice but in Chapter 3 Atticus tells Scout “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. ” This means that you should not assume things about a person until you actually try to understand and see things from their perspective.

Author: Gene Jeremiah

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To Kill A Mockingbird Essays: Discrimination and Prejudice

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Discrimination and Prejudice in To Kill A Mocking Bird          


Discrimination and prejudice were very common acts in the early and middle 1900's. Prejudice in this book is displayed by the acts of hate and misunderstanding because of someone's color. People of color were the majority that were treated unfairly. During this time in the southern states, black people had to use separate bathrooms, drinking fountains, sections in restaurants, churches, and even go to separate schools. Although much of the discrimination was directed towards blacks, there were plenty of accounts towards impoverished families by those that had money. Discrimination is prevalent when people that are different are called names. Some people thought blacks were automatically dumb because of their color. They weren't allowed to do anything but menial tasks (such as chopping wood) and hard labor because they were thought too dumb.

The novel TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee has numerous accounts of racism and prejudice throughout the entire piece. The novel is set in the 1930's, a time when racism was very prevalent. Although bigotry and segregation were pointed in majority towards blacks, other accounts towards whites were also heard of, though not as commonly. There are acts that are so discreet that you almost don't catch them, but along with those, there are blatant acts of bigotry that would never occur in our time. Lee addresses many of these feelings in her novel.

One subtle example of discrimination the reader sees is the treatment of Calpurnia, a black woman, the housekeeper/nanny for the Finch family. Although she is treated fairly, it is obvious that she is considered to be on a lower social level than the Finches. She calls Scout ma'am and Jem sir, although these are titles usually reserved for elders.

"Hush your mouth, sir! When you oughta be hangin' your head in shame you go along laughin'. If Mr. Finch don't wear you out, I will - get in that house, sir!"

When Atticus takes Calpurnia to Tom Robinson's home, she has to sit in the back seat so as not to appear as Atticus's equal. She does not eat at the same table with the Finch family although she has been a part of it since Jem was two. She is clearly loved by the family but by no means is she their equal.

"I said come here, nigger, and bust up this chiffarobe for me, I got a nickel for you.

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The words "nigger", "darkie", and "boy" are seen often throughout the book. It is often used hatefully but sometimes it is used in a conversation where the speaker says it like they're saying colored.

"Do you defend niggers, Atticus?" "Don't say nigger, Scout. That's common."

This particular quote shows how far ahead Atticus was at this time. He knew that the word nigger was offensive to the blacks at this time. He showed the respect and common courtesy which was very rare of an affluent white male. Most of the blacks live in the bad part of town, or the "slums." Even if they had the money, they wouldn't have been able to live in an upper class neighborhood like the Finches. Blacks were considered dirty and unsanitary therefore, people didn't want them next to their houses. They feared that it would bring down their real estate value along with their reputations.

The black people in this era were not allowed to vote. Yes, they had the right to vote but there were such things as the grandfather clause. The grandfather clause allowed blacks to vote only if they had a grandfather that voted. If their grandfather was a slave, they couldn't vote. In that effect, no black could vote and no black would ever be able to. There were also the Jim Crow Laws. Blacks could not go into restaurants or other public places inhabited by whites. There were separate schools, water fountains, restores, even churches. Blacks had to sit in the back of buses and other forms of public transportation. If they had a seat and there were no empty ones left when a white person entered a bus or other seated area, the blacks had to stand or get off. This was evident when Dill, Jem and Scout were at the courthouse and there were no seats left in the front row. Three blacks stood so that the white children could be seated. There were also extensive literacy tests that had to be passed. Again, many of these "free" blacks had ancestors that were slaves. They were not taught to read, therefore they could not teach their children or grand-children to read.

These are just a few accounts of racism and bigotry against blacks. This is not so surprising and it is most definitely unfair but there were also times when whites were segregated against. Many middle to upper class people discriminated heavily against blacks but also against people of their own race. This was because of their fraternization with blacks or simply because of their social standing.

Mr. Dolphus Raymond was a white man who was a victim of ostracism because of his association with a woman who was black.

"Jem," I asked, "what's a mixed child?"

"Half white, half colored. You've seen 'em Scout. You know, that red-kinky-headed one that delivers for the drugstore. He's half white. They're real sad."

"Sad, how come?"

They don't belong anywhere. Colored folks won't have 'em because they're half white; white folks won't have 'em 'cause they're colored, so they're just in-betweens, don't belong anywhere."

He pretended to be a drunk so he didn't have to explain the fact that he was simply in love with a black woman. The alcohol, he said, gave the people an excuse to say he didn't know what he was doing. These sort of relationships were absolutely taboo at this time. It just wasn't accepted.

Aunt Alexandra displayed an act of discrimination against her own race when she forbade Scout to have Walter Cunningham over for lunch.

"I'll tell you why," she said. "Because he is trash, that's why you can't play with him. I'll not have you around him, picking up his habits and learning Lord-knows-what. You're enough of a problem to your father as it is."

The Finch family owned Finch's Landing and could trace their heritage back to almost the beginning of their bloodline. Aunt Alexandra thought, because of her heritage, that she and her family were better than everyone else. This showed that some whites of this era weren't only bigoted against the blacks; they felt the same toward anyone who was even a little bit different than themselves. People still tend to do this today. People with money are always suspecting of lower classes. If they have something that someone else can't afford but they want, they think that they would steal from them to get it.

The theme of prejudice is almost the sole basis of this book. Throughout the novel, we see each separate person and his personal narrow-mindedness. We also see how each person eventually opens his eyes and sees the light. For instance, Aunt Alexandra sees that Walter is as much a human and deserving of respect as she is. She also learns not to judge Atticus for the ways in which he raises his children and to let Scout be a child while she can. This is evident on both counts while in a conversation with Atticus Aunt Alexandra says, "I've been wrong, Atticus. I've been so very wrong." We see each character at his weakest and watch as he grows stronger and more accepting.

You can call it racism, narrow-mindedness, bigotry or intolerance. No matter how you sugar coat it with words, it is wrong. In this novel, we see a black man put on trial for a crime he clearly did not commit. This is an excellent example of how much this country has overcome and matured. We see how badly mistaken we were and how we never want to get back into that type of lifestyle. People were so afraid of what everyone else would've thought that they chose the verdict that the public wanted, not what they felt in their hearts. We have been faced with this problem since the beginning of time and we will face it until the end.



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