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How Harper Lee Reveals The Theme

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Published: Thu, 11 May 2017

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of the most interesting novel employing the use of the innocent child, Scout growing up to narrate the story in her own experience. The novel is set in the 1950’s during the heights of Americans segregations of the Blacks and Whites. This novel discusses the different aspects in the society such as inequality, good and bad among other sensitive issues. Critics see the place of setting the novel, Maycomb is like Monroeville, Alabama where the author was born. This essay explores how Harper Lee uses different literary devices such character, symbolism, figurative language, conflict, imagery and tone to reveal the major themes in her novel.

The main idea of this essay is to discuss how Harper Lee brings out her themes through the use of different literately styles. Among the styles is the use of characters. The main character is a nine-year-old girl, Scout. She is the protagonist and the story is told from her point of view. Scout is portrayed as an unusually young girl with exceptional qualities. She grows from the innocence of a child to maturity. She approaches life innocently believing that everyone is good just like them in their household. Her first disappointment sets in when the jury convicts the obviously innocent black Tom Robinson, who was accused of raping a White woman, Mayella Ewell. Scout and Jem learn the difference between the good and evil that exists in the society and must keenly understand the human nature (Lee, P. 247). Scout and Jem are also used to show the theme of racism that existed between the Black and Whites in Maycomb. Scout tries to understand the differences between the Blacks and Whites. She attended the Black church and enjoys the experience. She would like to visit Calpurnia home but her aunt would not agree. Jem, Scout and Dill believe in racial equality. They observe the innocent Tom being convicted of rape and this incident really bring conflict to their innocent minds about human nature. The family of Atticus represents the good people in the society who respect everyone irrespective of social class or race while Bob Ewell represent the true evil who would want to kill the children towards the end of the story (Lee, Chap, 288. ).

Tone is another important literary technique used by Harper Lee. Scout’s tone is used to tell the story. The tone is innocent, childlike and humorous. This shows the good nature in which Atticus has brought her up. However, as she grows up and experiences the evil side of human nature, her tone changes and becomes more critical of the society she lives. The sentence of Tom tortures her innocent mind. She learns that even thought Tom is innocent; he is convicted because he is Black accused of raping a White girl. Racism, vices in the society are some of the themes that shape the tone of the novel from the narrator’s point of view.

Harper Lee uses deep symbols to communicate her themes. She uses “mockingbird” to represent the good and purity of the society. Miss Maudie explains that mockingbirds do not do anybody any harm. They just sing peacefully and therefore it is sinful to kill them (Lee, Chap 10 p. 7). Mockingbird is used to represent the good people in the society wrongly accused or killed. Tom Robinson represents the good that is wrongly accused and convicted and later killed while trying to escape the prison. Boo Radley is another mockingbird; he protects the children from the murderous Bob Ewell. The sheriff has to protect him because he is a mockingbird doing no harm to anyone. All he did was to protect the innocent children from true evil. Bob Ewell is a symbol of evil in the society.

Harper uses conflict in the novel to drive her theme of good and evil in the society. The novel has two conflicting forces; the good and evil. Scout and Jem believed that everyone is good. But during the sentence of Tom Robinson unfairly, they become confused and their innocent minds is subjected to conflicts regarding human nature. These conflicts bring about the themes of racism, conflict human nature particularly with Miss Gate who is racist. Her statement outside the courtroom is clear in conflict with equality in America. These acts of evils cause them conflict in their innocent minds. They continue to believe in the true nature of mankind. These conflicts show that whatever is righteous will always prevail over evil, just like Bob Ewell is prevailed upon by the well intentioned Boo Radley (Lee, Chap 31, p. 288). Harper Lee also uses other literary techniques such as imagery, figurative, flashback, stream of consciousness but we have concentrated only on the three to bring out the themes clearly.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a novel rich in themes as well as the use of different literary devices to bring out the themes. Her choice of the main character, Scout to tell the story from her point of view lets the reader have the first hand experience of the events of the story. She matures with experiences of the society she lives. The story is humorously and innocently told, sometimes the narrator laughing at her own naiveties’ during her childhood. All the characters used in this novel have a role to play in developing the themes, and plots of the story. Themes are also well brought out. From the moral education of the Atticus, the moral decadence of Bob Ewell to the racism Tom Robinson experience can all the seen through several characters and use of language in the novel. The novel makes an interesting reading.


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