The novel To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, takes place during the 1930's in Maycomb County, Alabama. Atticus Finch, a white southern lawyer, is appointed to defend Tom Robinson, an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman. Throughout the story Atticus' children learn the meaning of true courage. Although Atticus proves Tom's innocence, the prejudice white jury's verdict is that Tom is guilty. The assumed black characteristics of immorality, dishonesty, shiftlessness and personal squalor are embodied by the white Ewell clan. This is a glaringly obvious fact that the prejudiced Maycomb society refuses to acknowledge.
Three examples of black characters who do not fit his "stereotype" are Reverend Sykes, Calpurnia and Tom Robinson. My first example is Reverend Sykes. He is a respected, generous man who runs a clean church and accepts worshipers both white and black. When Calpurnia brings Scout and Jem to the black church, he and the congregation welcome them.
This shows that in the eyes of the Reverend, as in the eyes of God their is no prejudice. At the trial, Reverend Sykes makes room for Scout and Jem in the courtroom balcony where the blacks sit. While the trail is going on the blacks show no disrespect for Jem and Scout. After the trial is over, out of respect, the blacks wait until Atticus Finch passes and then they stand.
Secondly is the character of Calpurnia who also does not fit this stereotype. Calpurnia is the housekeeper for the Finchs and also helped raise Scout and Jem. Calpurnia is educated, hard working and well kept. She taught her children to read and Scout and Jem how to write on her own time. All that she had accomplished was done at a time when most Negroes could not read or write.
The last black character who embody the characteristics of immortality, dishonesty, shiftlessness and personal squalor is Tom Robison.. Tom is married with children and works hard to support them with a job. His house and yard are well cared for and he attends church. Not only that, but he stops at the Ewell house to help Mayella knowing that he is putting himself in a compromising position. At the trial, while on the stand, he answers questions in a respectable, dignified manner even though he is being accused of a crime he didn't commit. At one point when he is on the stand, Atticus questions him to tell the jury what Bob Ewell told him and he says, "Somethin' not fittin' to say - not fittin' for these folk'n chillun to hear-" (p.197).
In contrast, the Ewells have all of the characteristics generally stereotypical of blacks at that time. They lived in what was once a Negro cabin behind the town garbage dump. The cabin is not well kept and the yard is filled with garbage and junk. They live on relief checks which are spent by Bob Ewell for booze. Bob Ewell leaves his children unattended, beats them, and may have raped Mayella. He doesn't have a job, and the one job he did maintain was after the trail with the WPA. He only held that for a short while and then he was fired.. At the trial, when Bob Ewell gets on the witness stand, he lies under oath and acts obnoxious, uneducated and disrespectful.
In conclusion, the black characters of Reverend Sykes, Calpurnia and Tom Robinson are honest and respectful. Bob Ewell, however, is rude, uneducated and disrespectful. All of the characteristics of immorality, dishonesty, shiftlessness and personal squalor were visible in the Ewell clan but never in the black characters. By the 1960's, our society was becoming aware of invalid stereotypes of mankind. In 1963 Martin Luther King spoke," I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character." ("I Have A Dream," M.L. King). Tom Robinson was truly judged by the color of his skin and lost his life because of it. Prejudice is a issue that our society still faces today and has caused many a lot of pain. In To Kill A Mockingbird, Lee refuted all of the prejudices that whites had toward blacks by showing that they did not fit the "stereotype" of the time.