To Kill a Mockingbird
Task: The novel teaches readers about the importance of maintaining personal integrity despite dominant social attitudes such as racial prejudice and discrimination? Questions: How has Harper Lee used certain characters to demonstrate this? To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM) by Harper Lee is arguably one of the most well known novels, selling over 30 million copies worldwide. The novel, set in Maycomb, Alabama demonstrates the racial prejudice and discrimination in the southern states of America in 1930s.
Moreover, racial prejudice and discrimination is overt and both perpetuated as well as challenged through the actions and language of the characters. Atticus Finch and Link Deas both stand up for Tom Robinson, a black man, in court. In addition, Link Deas also helps Tom Robinson’s family. Finally, Tom Robinson challenged racial prejudice and discrimination when he ignores social boundaries in order to help Mayella, a white woman.
Despite dominant social attitudes like racism and prejudice, characters such as Atticus Finch, Link Deas and Tom Robinson follow their personal beliefs and show kindness and humanity, demonstrating the importance of personal integrity and morality. In this novel, Atticus Finch stands up for his personal beliefs despite the contrary attitudes of majority of the people in Maycomb. Though Atticus is aware that his reputation is threatened, he still fights for his sense of morality. When Scout asks Atticus whether he is a “nigger lover”, he responds by admitting, “I certainly am.
I do my best to love everybody… I’m hard put, sometimes -baby, it’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name” (pg 118). This quote illustrates that Atticus does not care about what people think and he will always defend his beliefs. It is emphasised in the novel through Atticus’ actions and language that he strongly maintains his personal ethical practices and challenges the societal attitudes of Maycomb. Secondly, Tom Robinsons’ employer, Link Deas, also challenges the dominant societal attitudes of Maycomb.
During Tom Robinson’s court case, without hesitating, he testifies that Tom Robinson is an honest and respectable man who is not guilty. Also, the readers can see that Mr Deas is against racial discrimination when he provides Tom Robinson’s window, Helen, with a stable job after Tom’s death and also protects Helen when Mr Ewell tries to harm her (pg 272). At the court, Link Deas stands and announces, “I just want the whole lot of you to know one thing right now. That boy’s worked for me for eight years an’ I ain’t had a speck o’ trouble outta him.
Not a speck” (pg 212-213). Link Deas, a white man, follows his own moral system despite the social attitudes towards his beliefs. Consequently, Link Deas is a man who defends Tom Robinson in front of his peers in the name of justice and humanity regardless of the opinions of others. Lastly, Tom Robinson has his own personal beliefs of kindness and humanity that he reinforces in the novel. This is highlighted when he takes pity on Mayella Ewell, a young white girl in the lower social class.
Tom Robinson makes the effort to help Mayella with house maintenance for no reason other than generosity. ”I was glad to do it, Mr Ewell didn’t see to help her none, and neither did the chillu, and I knowed she didn’t have no nickels to spare” (pg 208). Clearly, it is shown that Tom Robinson felt sympathy towards Mayella who received no help from her family. Against the fact that Tom Robinson is a black man, he took mercy on Mayella Ewell. He also challenges racial prejudice and class discrimination in order to maintain personal integrity and a sense of morality.
In conclusion, the characters Atticus Finch, Link Deas and Tom Robinson all challenge racial prejudice and discrimination in Maycomb. Atticus Finch and Link Deas both speak up for Tom Robinson and Link Deas also helps Tom’s family after his death. Lastly, Tom Robinson challenged class discrimination when he takes pity on Mayella. Thus Harper Lee uses these characters to demonstrate the importance of personal integrity and having sense of morality despite mainstream views of racial prejudice and discrimination, a notion for which we should all strive.