Social Inequality in To Kill a Mockingbird Essay Example


In “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee the central theme in the book is social outcasts in society and how people are treated differently in the community. As the book is set in 1933, it’s a time during The Great Depression where many people were struggling to maintain a superior job to provide food for their family. During this time period, it was also a time filled with disparity and imbalance. People weren’t allowed to be associated or connected to people of the opposite race. Most black people throughout the story were denied of basic rights and were discriminated against the town throughout the beginning, middle, and end of the book. At the beginning, of the book, Atticus explains to Jem and Scout that they should treat people with respect, in the middle of the story, Jem and Scout are getting bullied at school because Atticus has to represent Tom Robinson in court, and at the end of the book Tom Robinson is found guilty even though he is innocent. 

Throughout the beginning of the book, Jem and Scout view the Radley’s as outcasts as they are seen as incapable socially than others in town, as they don’t interact with others from the outside as much. In the book, it says, “First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view(Lee 39).” During this point in the book, this is an example of the theme social outcasts because Atticus is explaining to Scout that everyone should be treated with respect, even if they aren’t of the same race or in the same social class.

As Atticus shares this with Scout, Scout believes that the Radleys are weird and strange people that are mysterious and should be treated differently. Jem also has different thoughts about people in the town as he thinks that all people should be outgoing and should communicate with one another. When he decided he would ask Atticus about the Radley’s, Atticus’s only answer was, “...mind your own business and let the Radley’s mind theirs, they have the right to(Lee 21).” Although Atticus is only stating his own opinion about the outcasts and people of a different color and those of poverty. Atticus creates foreshadowing to the end of the story where he is defending Tom Robinson in court. 

Towards the middle of the story more social outcasts are discovered as people begin to view the Finch Family differently by tormenting the pedigree. This is because Atticus is representing Tom Robinson in court. Well in school, Jem and Scout’s classmates are bullying them because their father is defending a black man. In the book, it says, “My folks said your daddy was a disgrace an’ that nigger oughta hang from the water tower (Lee 102).” This shows how Scout is being treated from one of her classmates Cecil Jacobs, as she gets bullied and persecuted by this girl. Because of this happening to her, Atticus explains to Scout that it’s his job to defend a black man and that he won’t let peer pressure allow him to refuse the case.

Atticus is determined to defend Tom Robinson even though he knows he won’t win. Later in the story, people show up at the county jail wanting to speak to Atticus about Tom Robinson. In the book, it says, "Link, that boy might go to the chair, but he's not going till the truth's told." Atticus's voice was even. "And you know what the truth is (Lee 95)." Most people in the town believe and think about the opposite of Atticus. These men think that just because Tom Robinson is a different race, he’s going to lie to the court because that’s what most blacks are believed to do guilty or innocent. 

At the end of the book, the theme of rejection and cast out is seen very clearly in the trial between Mayella Ewell and Tom Robinson. The trial happens and the court comes to a decision. Even though, Mayella’s father, Bob Ewell used Mayella. Tom Robinson is found guilty, as all he was trying to do was help Mayella. During the trial was taking place the children, Scout, Jem, and Dill talk to Mr. Raymond. Although Mr. Raymond seems drunk most of the time due to his drink in the paper bag he carries around. These children find out that this is just an act. In the story, it says, “Secretly, Miss Finch, I'm not much of a drinker, but you see they could never, never understand that I live like I do because that's the way I want to live(Lee 268).” 

This provides a great example of social outcasts and inequality in the book as Mr. Raymond explains to the children that he only pretends to be drunk, so he doesn’t have to explain to people why he married a lady of a different race. This creates a sense of the truth in the book because most people believe it is wrong to marry and be with someone of a different race or ethnicity. More truth and social inequality are revealed in the book as it says, "She was white, and she tempted a Negro. She did something that in our society is unspeakable: she kissed a black man. Not an old Uncle, but a strong young Negro man. No code mattered to her before she broke it, but it came crashing down on her afterward (Lee 272)." This proves that Mayella is breaking the law in the community because she likes a black man and she and her father are trying to lie, so the people don’t find out the truth. This also shows how people in society can’t marry people of a different race because it is found to be wrong in this time period.

Time has changed miraculously through each time period today. Through the years social inequality and outcasts have become less and less seen and noticed in life each day. In “To Kill a Mockingbird” a lot of social inequality was noticed and it created the central theme in the story. This helped the author, Harper Lee, tell the story of how social outcasts affect people in the community by changing the way that people view one another on the terms of inequality. This was seen throughout the book in the beginning, middle, and end of the story as different people was affected by the way people thought and viewed them and the way they were classified in the book. Therefore, this shows how the society in Maycomb County during the Great Depression was affected by the way people were treated in society in our past.

 

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