About To Kill a Mockingbird

October 4, 2017
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To Kill a Mockingbird is a book that relates to the history and the social problems of the United States. Harper Lee, the author, was born on April 28, 1926, in Alabama. The United States is a country with many different types of immigrants from other countries. That is why the discrimination problem is so rampant. At that time, the environment that the author grew up in was dominated by discrimination of black people at the hands of white people. Among the protagonists are two children, and their growth is narrated by the adult Scout. The setting of the book is the 1930s, in a small town in the South. A trial in the town completely changes the life of Scout’s family. Over the course of the trial, different people provide an education into the reality of society for the two children. The novel was written from the view of a child who sees the world through innocent eyes. Throughout the novel, we can see how these children adapt to the real world.


Early in the novel, Scout and Jem want to learn how to shoot an air rifle, but Atticus does not want to teach them, and asks their uncle instead: “When he gave us our air-rifles Atticus wouldn’t teach us to shoot. Uncle Jack instructed us in the rudiments thereof; he said Atticus wasn’t interested in guns. Atticus said to Jem one day, ‘I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit them, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird’”. This is the first time the novel directly connects to the title of the book. The reason why Atticus does not let his children shoot mockingbirds is that mockingbirds never hurt or do damage to anything. Instead, mockingbirds sing and allow people to enjoy their performance. Although the children may still not understand what the meaning of that is at that time, it is still one of the most important stages in their growth because they do follow the principle that Atticus gives to them. They will later understand that people who do not do any harm to society are just like the mockingbird their father is talking about. There is no reason to harm them, no matter what race, skin color, or language identifies them.


In the middle of the novel, Scout and Jem go to the court to watch Tom Robinson’s case. While watching the court proceedings, Jem seems very confident that Tom will be found innocent, and he talks a lot about principles of law to Scout to prove his point of view: “‘He sorta said if you believe this, you’ll have to return another one. I thought he was leaning a little bit to our side’. Reverend Sykes scratched his head. Jem smiled. ‘He’s not supposed to lean, Reverend, but don’t fret, we’ve won it,’ He said wisely. ‘Don’t see how any jury could convict on what we heard’”. However, the jury returns a “guilty” verdict for Tom at the end of the trial, which breaks Jem’s heart. Jem is surrounded by confusion and despair for several days after this. It seems that, without Atticus’ help, Jem might never get out of this shadow, because what Jem thinks is right and what he thinks is going to happen are just the opposite of reality. Neither Scout nor Jem understand why the townspeople treat Tom as guilty, since all the evidence showed that Tom is innocent. Scout and Jem are victims of the real world. However, “what doesn’t kill you just make you stronger”. The experience the children have in the court is just the calm wind before the storm. Since everyone in the town knew that Atticus wants to protect Tom Robinson, they begin to treat the Finch family disdainfully. Scout and Jem also strongly feel that there is a gap forming between themselves and others. Everyone is angry with their father for protecting a black man. Scout and Jem are also victims of discrimination. It is hard for children to understand why doing the right thing would be condemned by society. It is difficult for them understand that the whole society just labeled Tom as guilty even though he was innocent. “‘Doesn’t make it right,’ said Jem stolidly. He beat his fist softly on his knee. ‘You just can’t convict a man on the evidence like that-you can’t … You couldn’t, but they could and did ... The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box ... whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.’” Luckily, with help from Atticus, Scout and Jem learn to pursue their faith despite the disdain of others. They also understand what discrimination is and how deeply it is rooted in most people’s hearts. They realize how justice and intellect is buried by the dark side of humanity. This is the second major lesson in their growth.


At the end of the novel, when Scout is hurt and Jem is almost killed by Bob Ewell, a “hero” appears and kills Bob to protect the children; that “hero” is Boo Radley. Boo Radley is another mockingbird in this story, a good man who never did a bad thing to anyone. Boo, however, is misunderstood by most people just because he is afraid to go outside. Atticus teaches his children: “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”.  Although Scout and Jem do not understand that idea right away, they later realize the meaning of these words after they learn how much Boo helped them: “It was still summertime, and the children came closer. A boy trudged down the sidewalk dragging a fishing pole behind him. It was fall, and his children fought on the sidewalk in front of Mrs. Dubose’s ... The boy helped his sister to her feet, and they made their way home ... Winter, and his children shivering at the front gate, silhouetted against a blazing house ... Summer, and he watched his children’s heart break. Autumn again, and Boo’s children needed him. Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.” (374). At last, the real life of Boo Radley was presented. The comparison between the “reality of someone” and the “rumor of someone” also explained why understanding others is one of the hardest -- and kindest -- actions in the world. However, the conflict inside Scout’s heart implies she already did that. Now, she has the heart that is able to understand Atticus’s saying, as well as to understand Boo. This is the last stage of growth the children experience in the novel.
       

Overall, this is the education that Scout and Jem learn to help them adapt to their cruel world. The experience they have through real life helps them to understand discrimination and its pervasive nature. It helps them to find a way to hold on to their precious faith and justice. It helps them understand why we should never judge a person’s actions before placing ourselves in that same situation. And it helps them realize how immoral it is to hurt someone who has a beautiful heart and is always doing good things. These lessons helped the Scout and Jem grow and change, preparing them for life in the adult world.






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