To Kill a Mocking Bird
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), is a story of racial oppression in the American south. The novel deals with the themes of prejudice, loss of innocence, bravery, and integrity. This didactic novel represents prejudice as something that can be overcome. This is demonstrated through the lessons that Atticus teaches Scout about empathy, the children’s perception of Boo Radley, and the symbolism of the rabid dog.
The novel’s representation of prejudice as something that can be overcome, is effectively demonstrated through Atticus teaching Scout about empathy. In chapter three, Scout’s prejudice is revealed in her preconceived opinion about her classmate, Walter Cunningham. She says to her teacher, “Miss Caroline, he’s a Cunningham” (26), making a judgement on Walter Cunningham based on his family group appose to his specific character. She later says, “he ain’t company, Cal, he’s just a Cunningham” (30). The word “just” clearly indicates that Scout has little regard for Walter and does not respect him as an individual. When Scout returns home, and recounts her day to Atticus, he is quick to tell her, “If you can learn a simple trick [..] you’ll get along better with all kinds of folks. 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” (33). The phrases “get along better” and “understand a person” suggest how Atticus believes we should live, valuing empathy and understanding over hostility and prejudice. Atticus uses the wording, “climbs into his skin and walk around in it” to teach Scout about viewing a person’s opinions from their perspective understanding their way of thinking.
Prejudice is effectively overcome, through the construction of children’s changing perception of Boo Radley. At the beginning of the novel, Boo is merely a source of childhood superstition. In Chapter 1, Jem gives a description of Boo Radley’s appearance to Dill, describing him to have, “a long jagged scar that ran across his face,” with his teeth, “yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and [drooling] most of the time” (19). Strong language choices describe Boo’s...