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What message does the novel, To Kill A Mocking Bird, say about prejudice?


Prejudice is the preconceived opinion of a person or thing. The novel To Kill A Mocking Bird’s main message to readers is not to treat other races, such as blacks, differently. There are 3 main types of prejudice: racial prejudice, social prejudice and religious prejudice. Maycomb is an old and tired town that puts a negative light on the town and the people. The poverty and lack of outside influence causes prejudice. The backwardness and narrow-mindedness of the community fuelled racism in Maycomb are negative qualities for social and religious prejudice. The foot-washers have a strong influence on the community and the town being prejudice towards the Radleys. In the trial there is a lot of racial prejudice toward Tom Robinson as there is no doctor present who could testify that Tom didn’t commit the crime.

Maycomb town is described well in chapter 1 as it tells us why the people are so inward looking.
“Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town.”
This statement by Jem to the readers puts a negative light on Maycomb and its people. The personification of the word tired emphasises the lack of enthusiasm, about everything, the people of Maycomb have. It also suggests an unwillingness and lack of desire to change this fact. ‘Tired’ also indicates that the town is very boring and new concepts are not welcome. There is also the repetition of the word ‘old’ which gives the impression of a dirty decaying town. This emphasises how old fashioned and backward the town is. The paragraph also describes how the town is not looked after by anyone.

The poverty and lack of outside influence causes prejudice. Maycomb rejects outside influences because of the old fashioned views. The town’s backwardness is highlighted by the way in which there are no activities or past times in Maycomb except gardening.
“A day was twenty four hours long but seemed longer.”
This is emphasised when Jem says,
“Don’t have any picture shows here.”
These quotes emphasise the restricted and backward views the people hold.
It is apparent that the authorities do not wish for any outside interference, when during Scout’s current affairs lesson it is said that:
“Few rural children had access to newspapers!”
This shows that there was no wish for the town to change. The outside influences would soon be expelled in later generations as the children are brought up to live by the inward-looking views of Maycomb. This means that the prejudicial attitudes of the people in Maycomb would remain unchanged and unchallenged.

The backwardness and narrow-mindedness of the community fuelled racism in Maycomb are negative qualities for social and religious prejudice. The community’s narrow-mindedness is formed because the population has been unchanged for many decades with the same families occupying the town. This causes prejudice towards anything that is different from the norm. Maycomb is very backward and isolated due to the town being far from the river, which was the main form of transport in the early days. This confines the town’s development and leads to the social conditioning of the people this in turn helps to explain why there is social and religious prejudice. The Maycomb people have very inward looking views and so these views are passed on from generation to generation.

Maycomb is a very religious town with the foot-washing Baptists appearing to have a strong influence on the community. The foot-washers have very strict views and believe that anything which is pleasurable is a sin. They are therefore prejudiced against a great deal of people who are different from them w

ith different opinions. An example of their prejudice is when Miss Maudie says,
“some of ‘em came out of the woods one Saturday and passed by this place and told me and my flowers we were going to hell?”


Their belief is so extreme they feel they should threaten those who are different. Scout is shocked by this as she thinks Miss Maudie is the ‘best lady’ she knows. Miss Maudie is a good role model for Scout as she is not prejudice against anyone presented in the novel.

Another example of prejudice toward somebody is the isolation of the Radleys. This isolation is due to this family not attending church. They also don’t conform to other codes of behaviour. The Radleys suffer religious prejudice because of this and social prejudices because they keep themselves to themselves, apart from everyone else. The society sees church as a pastime and therefore pleasurable; as Mr Radley was a foot-washing Baptist he would not agree with attending church. The community seeing church as a pastime reflects their inward views and their narrow mindedness.

In the trial there is a lot of racial prejudice toward Tom Robinson. There is not a doctor present who could testify that Tom couldn’t have committed the crime because of his disability. This is so that Tom is definitely convicted just because he is black. With a doctor it would be easy to clear Tom of the charge.


“Mr Tate blinked again as if something had suddenly been made plain to him.”
This shows how obvious it was that Tom had not committed a crime against Mayella Ewell. However Tom is convicted anyway because he testifies that he felt sorry for Mayella. This disgusts the white people in the crowd. He knows how the town is racist and is very nervous about how they will react to him.
“Tom’s discomfort was not from humility.”

Tom knows that the white community will think it completely impertinent for him to feel sorry for Mayella because he is black and she is white. This is a good example of the racial prejudice in Maycomb.

 

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