“To Kill a Mockingbird” Research Paper with Outline
The novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” depicts the social and racial inequalities that prevailed in the American society in the 1960s and the protagonist of the novel, Atticus Finch, is often portrayed as one of the most powerful fictional images of racial heroism. In fact, the novel can be read as a moral fable as it severely condemns all sorts of racial prejudices. As the title of the novel suggests, the novelist employs a number of “mocking birds” through effective characterization to unearth the social and racial injustice that dominated the then contemporary American society and in doing so the novelist takes special efforts to emphasize that goodness will always win over evil.
Nelle Harper Lee employs effective characterization to convey the theme of racial prejudice and discrimination in the novel. All throughout the novel, the character of Atticus is depicted as a champion of racial equality. Ever since Atticus Finch makes up his mind to defend Tom Robinson, who was allegedly accused of raping a white woman, he faces alienation and social protests from the white dominated society; even his children, Jem and Scout, had to face abuse from other children at the school. Atticus offers great value to education and he takes special care to educate both Jem and Scout. At many instances of the novel, one finds Atticus arguing that all Negroes do not lie and that all Negroes are not immoral beings. Similarly, one can experience the protagonist’s optimism that the good will always triumph over the evil. Even though Atticus offers solid evidences to prove Tom Robinson’s innocence, the all-white jury shows its racial prejudice by convicting him. Later, Robinson faces a tragic death as he was shot to death in his attempt to escape from the prison. On the other hand, even though Atticus fails to acquit Robinson as a lawyer, he “functions as the novel’s moral backbone” with his “strongly held convictions, wisdom, and empathy”; one also can find Atticus instilling ‘strong sense of morality and justice’ in the minds of Scout and Jem (Lee 4).
Similarly, one can also find many other “mockingbirds” in the characterization of the novel. Scout shows immense “faith in the goodness of the people in her community”; Boo and Tom Robinson act as “mockingbirds” in the novel as both the characters symbolize ‘innocence destroyed by evil’ (Lee 4). While Robinson is subjected to evil and injustice at the hands of Mayella Ewell, her father Bob Ewell, and the all-white jury, Boo is injured by the emotional maltreatment of his own father. On the other hand, the character of Dolphin Raymond acts as a foil to these villainous characters as he happily lives with his black mistress and mulatto children and loves to spend his time in the company of the blacks. Thus, one can conclude that almost all the major characters in the novel are either directly or indirectly involved in the racial fight and each one contributes to the theme of racial equality in the novel.
The novel vividly pictures the rigid class structure and social stratification of Maycomb County. Scout and Jem witness various manifestations of the social inequality from their surroundings and Scout realizes that it is because of the social inequalities that Cunningham is unable to have lunch at school. Jem, Scout and Dill sit with black people to observe the trial. The instance where “Scout and Dill have a lengthy conversation with Mr. Raymond, a white man who married a black woman and has mixed children” clearly shows his contempt towards the hypocritical Whites and all throughout the novel one can find Scout exploring “the differences between back people and white people” (Grade Saver: To Kill a Mockingbird Study Guide: Major Themes). Thus, one can state that the novel clearly depicts the social and racial inequality that characterised Lee’s own life.
Grade Saver: To Kill a Mockingbird Study Guide: Major Themes. Gradesaver LLC, 2010. 16 June 2010 http://www.gradesaver.com/to-kill-a-mockingbird/study-guide/major-themes/
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. SparkNotes, 2007. 16 June 2010