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Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird portrays an accurate reflection of people affairs in the southern United States during the 1930s. The story, which is set around a single-father household in rural community Alabama, includes a vast display of symbolism to connect the main plot with numerous subplots. Through her novel, Lee sets straight the old-fashioned Southern culture for the realism of Southern culture. The timing of this book also matched with the early Civil Rights Movement in the United States.
Clearly symbolic is Jem’s effort to make a snowman during the unusual Alabama snowfall. As he forms the snow into a ball, he roles it to add more snow. While rolling the snowball it gathers up dirt giving the snowman a dirty surface. The snowman signifies the superficiality of skin color.
To Kill a Mockingbird highlights tons of themes and represents a general story from a local viewpoint. The overall dispute contains the obvious cry for justice, but at the same time mocks the civilization of Southern society.
Despite the fact that slavery was ended roughly a half a century before To Kill a Mockingbird was published, African Americans were still deprived of lots of their basic civil rights. Conditions were little improved up to the time when this novel was published. Blacks were degraded by the Southern society by the segregation of public bathrooms and drinking fountains, and also by forcing them to ride in the back of the public buses. In addition, there was still discrimination within the justice system. Blacks were excluded from juries, and could also be arrested, brought before a judge, and even found guilty with very little reason. There have been a countless number of cases in histories past where a white individual charged an African American of an alleged crime. This was seen throughout the book with the Tom Robinson case. Just like the jury in past trials, the jury for the Tom Robinson case was all white and all male; the trial was also held in a segregated courtroom.
The events dealing with race relations have a convincing connection with those in To Kill a Mockingbird, which is set just about thirty years prior. The South was hit really hard by the Great Depression since farming was still the way of life in the South. Small farmers, like Walter Cunningham in her novel, often could not earn enough money to cover all their payments, let alone living expenses.
Another struggle that African Americans faced in these times was advancement in education. Schools were segregated between blacks and whites, who were not permitted to attend white high schools. Therefore blacks were basically denied an education since there was not a high school built for blacks at that time. Because of this, a good percentage of African Americans did not have an education past the 5th grade. This was lightly covered in To Kill a Mockingbird when Calpurnia tells the children that she is only one of four members in her church who can read.
The purpose this book served is to show how ridiculous the culture of the South was regarding discrimination against blacks. Harper Lee gets the reader thinking, not only about the way people were treated in the past, but how we should be treating people nowadays. The book also deals with tolerance for diversity and standing up for what’s right. It’s about showing people, who are going through adversity, that you care – and there’s a lot of adversity in her novel. It is the Great Depression, and some of the community can’t pay Atticus with money, so they do the honorable thing, the only thing they can, and pay him with the goods they produce.
Ultimately, this books’ purpose is about standing up for what you believe is right-and teaching those values to your children, because obviously Atticus’s behavior had a huge impact on Scout and Jem. It’s about family and extended family, and trying to hold everything together when the world seems to be falling apart. And it’s about compassion for everyone’s humanity.
Upon finishing the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, many thoughts have filled my mind. I think by reading this book, that perhaps Harper Lee has fulfilled her intentions with me as a reader, that I have therefore become a better person. I find Atticus a very idealistic, moral character. He has a great sense of humor and tries his best to raise his children as a single parent. I like how Lee used the first part of To Kill a Mockingbird for us to get to know Atticus as a person and a father, not just as a white lawyer defending an African American. Atticus also has strong views on the treatment of whites toward blacks; I loved what he said in the book: “As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.”
I also found the symbol of the mockingbird to be rather clever. Boo Radley and Tom Robinson were innocent people who were judged unfairly by what people thought, not by what they knew. It’s summed up with Atticus’ explanation of it: “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mocking bird.”
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