In today’s world, everyone faces some kind of discrimination, whether it be on social class, race, gender, or popularity. In To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, there are various instances where discrimination is displayed by acts of misunderstanding and hate among different characters in the book. The author effectively reveals different types of prejudice and their consequences. The narrator of the book, Scout, and her brother, Jem, live a secure life with their father, Atticus Finch, without knowing much about the outside world.
However, this changes when Atticus, a morally passionate lawyer, defends a black man in a court case. The most overt form of discrimination in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is racism; however, there are other forms of prejudice and discrimination in the novel based primarily on character differences in gender and class. Racism is the main type of discrimination that takes place through various parts of the book. Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white girl, is the major victim of racial prejudice in this book. Although his lawyer, Atticus, has substantial evidence that Tom did not commit the crime, he is still convicted by the all-white jury because of his skin color. This effectively displays how unfair the criminal justice system was in the past.
Atticus highlights these problems when he says,”In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life.”(295) Atticus is normally very inspiring and optimistic, but here he says that racism is just a “fact of life” and nothing can be done about it. This just shows how Tom Robinson’s case had reversed his positivity regarding the moral nature of humans.
Also he claims that racial stereotypes are lies “as black as Tom Robinson’s skin”(204). Atticus is right; all individuals should be treated based on their individual personality rather than their skin color. Here, the author relates evil with darkness in a figurative way. Atticus indirectly points out that the Maycomb society already had a habit of connecting evil and darkness. In conclusion, Tom Robinson’s case was a prime example of racial discrimination in Maycomb, and Atticus shows strong opposition to that kind of behaviour. Along with racism, gender discrimination is also seen with the narrator of the book, Scout, when she is ostracized by Jem and Dill, for acting like a girl. For this reason, she is used more like a third wheel friend by them, rather than a playmate.
When Jem shouted at Scout for “gettin’ more like a girl everyday”(52), she thought that she “had no option but to join them”(52). Although Scout is actually a girl, Jem wants her to act like a boy. This shows the discrimination against Scout based on her gender, and this affected her thoughts on this situation. Since she was born, she was mainly living with male figures such as her brother and her father. This led to her characteristics becoming more like those of a boy.
That is why she would do anything to not be called a girl. On the other hand, Aunt Alexandra, Atticus’ sister, wants Scout to be more like a girl. She criticizes Scout for this, saying that she is a girl, and she should behave like one. Her “vision of my deportment involved playing with small stoves, tea sets, and wearing the Add-A-Pearl Necklace she gave me when I was born.”(108) Not only does she care about the outfit that Scout wore, but she wanted her to understand that she has a role to fulfill in her life, and she is supposed to carry out that role. Atticus tries to explain this to Scout, but she doesn’t care that much, since Atticus did not care about it before Aunt Alexandra brought the topic up. This shows how Scout gets discriminated by her just because she is behaving like a tomboy. Then there is this contradiction between Jem and Aunt Alexandra, which Scout is stuck in between and cannot decide on what to do.
In the book, some people also get discriminated by social class, or wealth, rather than race or gender. The prime victims of this would be the Cunninghams. They are regarded as hardworking people, unlike the Ewells, by few kind souls, such as Atticus. But the other people of Maycomb, such as Aunt Alexandra, see them as a low class, poor, and worthless family. She portrays her opinion when Scout asks her if she can play with Walter. Aunt Alexandra replies with, “Because-he-is-trash, that’s why you can’t play with him”(225). This quote shows how wealth and status can be major factors of discrimination as well.
The Cunninghams are poor and are not able to afford much of anything, which might cause middle and high class people to look down on them. In chapter 3, Jem invites Walter to lunch. While eating, he pours maple syrup over all his food. Scout is horrified, and she asks, “what the sam hill is he doing”(32). Walter gets ashamed and apologizes. The way he pours maple syrup shows that different people have different styles of doing things, but Scout does not understand this. This displays the social class boundary line in between Scout and Walter, but Calpurnia and Atticus are willing enough to help Scout understand this.
In conclusion, all types of discrimination are common throughout the book, but racial discrimination is the most noticeable out of all of them. Discrimination is a worldwide problem that exists everywhere and it is hard to stop. Due to this many innocent people, such as Tom Robinson, have gotten into trouble in cases which they were not involved in. There are many situations where innocent black people were punished to extreme for crimes that they did not commit.
This just shows that the criminal justice system is a failure, and needs to be adjusted. Although all this happens in the real world, it is important that other people do not get involved in this. If they do, the American society will crash, and it will turn into the 1930’s again. So, always remember: “It is a sin to kill a mockingbird” – Harper Lee.