To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee is a beautiful story depicting a family living in the South of the 1930’s, and their struggle against the prejudice which was common to that time. The book centers on Atticus Finch, the father of the family as well as a lawyer, and his fight against prejudice. We see the story unfold through the innocent eyes of his young daughter, Scout, who is free from prejudice and not yet jaded. By viewing events as Scout sees them, the author shows us how to overcome prejudices, and gain tolerance.
By seeing the mob scene outside of the jail house through Scouts innocent eyes, we see how to gain understanding for others, instead of having everything be black or white. By talking to Mr. Cunningham the way she did, completely open, just trying to “make him feel at home” (154), she shows how he’s really just another person. In the thick of everything that’s happening, she’s able to forget why he’s there, and just say hey. She doesn’t see that he had become part of a mob, and had given in to the mob mentality, only what Atticus had said about him, and how the Cunningham’s were actually good, noble, human beings.
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She brought him back to earth, and reminded him what Atticus had done for him, of his son, and his whole life. Her reaction helps us to see our so called enemies in a different light. Instead of viewing the mob with hatred and fear, much as they view Tom Robinson, we are able to see them as individual people, who have given into their fear, and we are able to feel compassion and understanding. Viewing the story with Scout as the narrator, we gain compassion for those different then us, such as the Ewells.
During the trial, Scout comes to the realization that “Mayella Ewell must have been the loneliest person in the world. ” (191) When Scout says this, she opens up a different way for us to look at the situation. Instead of us seeing it simply as the Ewells framing Tom, and having our feelings toward it be one sided, this allows another way for us to view it. While what the Ewell’s were doing was wrong, we are able to see that Mayella was also a victim. Her father was abusive, and she had no one to talk to. Every day, she would do all the work around the house, and take care of the children, with no help.
Tom was most likely the only person to ever show her kindness and politeness, the only one to ever stop to help her and talk to her. The black people wouldn’t have anything to do with the Ewells because they were white, and the white people wouldn’t have anything to do with them because they lived like pigs, among the blacks. The prejudices other people held towards them was what caused them to act the way they did in the first place. We see that although what Mayella was doing was horrible, she had reasons to do it.
She is a victim of social pressures, of prejudice, and the effects these things have on her family. Scouts inability to understand different occurrences helps us as the reader realize the injustices that are taking place. The main example of this is the overall storyline of the rape trial. She doesn’t understand the charges of rape, let alone the prejudices associated with a black man raping a white woman. Scout is also unable to understand the injustice of Tom Robinson’s conviction. In her eyes he was obviously innocent, and yet he was convicted anyway.
She is completely free of prejudices, and in her mind if you didn’t do it, you’re innocent. However in the eyes of the jury, as well as society, Tom was born guilty, simply for being black. Another example of Scout’s incomprehension is when Jem is explaining to Scout about Mr. Dolphus, and how he prefers to live with the blacks, and about his half-colored children (161). They don’t look any different, and they don’t really act any different, and she can’t even tell that their mixed. This made us think, why were they so disliked?
As with the Ewell’s, neither the white people nor the black people wanted anything to do with them. Scout couldn’t understand this. It really doesn’t make any sense, and Scout helps us to see this. Why should his children be any worse off then any other child? They never did anything wrong. It’s the same as when Scout and Jem are talking to Mr. Dolphus during the trial (200), Scout doesn’t understand why he should have to pretend to be drunk, just so people won’t talk about the way he acts. So what if he wants to live with black people, he’s not causing anyone harm.
She can’t understand why he should have to lie. Scout’s inability to understand helps us see that it’s unfair, and doesn’t make sense. Prejudice is not just against a certain race. It can be towards a culture, a group of people, or even a class, like the Ewell’s. It exists everywhere, and it is human nature to fear what is different. However, it often takes the innocence of a child, or some other like source to make us see how ugly and senseless our actions sometimes are. That’s the role that Scout plays in To Kill a Mockingbird, the innocent bystander, that opens our eyes.