Essay on Racism in To Kill a Mockingbird

Maycomb’s disease is only contagious to those who are weak; as the mad dog’s appearance is equivalent to what Atticus has to face during his time of the case, he uses his gun to protect the kids and try and save the town from this ‘madness’. In the text the arguments are supported with the themes of racism, prejudice and symbolism and will be further explained.

The mad dog is symbolised through in chapter 10 of the novel and explores different themes and values. As scout grows and starts understanding what Maycomb truly is and what society has shaped her mind to be, which is equivalent to the mad dog, the mad dog explores and exposes what society is, through symbolism. The mad dog is diagnosed with rabies which is a ‘contagious’ and ‘deadly’ disease, Atticus quotes that he doesn’t want his kids catching Maycomb’s usual disease, this is shown when Atticus says, “I hope and pray I can get Jem and scout through it without bitterness and most of all without catching Maycomb’s usual ‘disease’, this quote includes the metaphor as a literary device explaining that Maycomb’s usual disease which symbolises the racism and fatal prejudice that is going through the town. 

The dog in this case represents Tom Robinson and the Tom Robinson case. The dog has rabies, which what harper lee is expressing to be how racism effects the town. Racism and prejudice has caused the entire town to go crazy over this case because Tom is African-American and Atticus who is white is taking his case knowing he will lose it, like killing this dog with rabies won’t get rid of the disease in its body, instead it will get rid of the dog as a whole which they see as the problem in contrast to getting rid of tom Robinson instead of actually doing something about the racism that is destroying the town, and knowing that Atticus is the only one who can at least make the town think twice and as miss Maudie states “And I thought to myself well, were making a step, it’s just a baby step but it’s a step”, which is true like when he shoots the dog its not going to remove every dog with rabies but will give the town one less dog corresponding with the fact that Atticus will leave the court room with one less person who is prejudice and racist.

Calpurnia knows that calling Atticus is the best thing to do because she knows that he has the best aim in town and has the best shot at getting rid of the dog and keeping the neighbourhood safe, Atticus comes and asks sheriff heck Tate for a gun, and Tate knows well enough that Atticus is an expert in the field so Tate hands it over. This situation effects Atticus the most because he never shoots, he only shoots when he feels like he has to and in that moment he did, in contrast to how he has to face something he feels like he has to because he has a job, a job to protect people and if it has come to a conclusion where he has to do that to a dog with rabies then he believes he can certainly try his best to protect tom and his case and proving that he is innocent. Atticus has to go through the pressure of releasing the trigger on the dog and on the case, he is willing to shoot the towns disease and weaken to make a difference and prove the wrong in the town’s decision. 

Therefore, Atticus Is the power in the novel to try and stop Maycomb’s disease from spreading as fast as rabies and to prevent it from becoming as fatal as it was to the dog.

He is the only one who can perfectly aim the gun so he might as well release the trigger on something that really needs to stop, like the towns fatal prejudice and vulgar racism.



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