What is the message of To Kill a Mockingbird?

Essay by ladida_blahJunior High, 9th grade March 2004

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What is the message of To Kill a Mockingbird?

The message of To Kill a Mockingbird is that people often have prejudiced, incorrect opinions of people, which should be avoided by employing a method involving empathy and understanding. These discriminatory views are shown through several situations in the novel. One of these is the racism shown from the Anglo-Saxon people towards the African-Americans. This racism makes it difficult for the African-Americans to live in peace, as the Anglo-Saxons treat them without respect or consideration. Another example of an incorrect view in the novel is the view that the Finch children have developed of Arthur (Boo) Radley, from stories they have heard from their neighbours. Boo Radley is seen to be the equivalent of an evil monster, which is entirely untrue, as he turns out to be a nice man. Another biased view was the way that Jem Finch saw his neighbour, Mrs Dubose - To be a mean, thoughtless, and worthless old lady.

Scout's view of her Aunt Alexandra was much the same, and Scout had to learn to understand her Aunt and he views, and appreciate them. The author has narrated the novel from the point of view of Scout, a young girl. The use of this technique further emphasises the message of the novel, contrasting dark themes with the innocence and naiveté of a young child who expects everything in life to be fair, and right.

In the town of Maycomb, the "white" residents are greatly prejudiced towards the "black" people. In the novel, this racism is shown when the residents are greatly opposed to Atticus Finch, a lawyer, defending Tom Robinson, a black man who has been charged for assault on a white lady. The court case held for this event provides the knowledge that Tom Robinson is innocent, however Tom Robinson is convicted to be guilty, purely due to the fact that he is an African-American man who was up against the word and opinion of an Anglo-Saxon lady. This biased ruling from the jury is unjust for the African-American man, who has committed no offences. This shows the prejudice in the society, when the people are able to let other people suffer just because they are not from the same ethnic background as them.

The Finch children believe that Boo Radley is a maniac and a monster, this accusation originating from and supported by tales about Boo, told by the neighbours. This was a very false image of Arthur Radley, as the children later realised. The image was also unfair to Arthur, as his main reason for staying in his house all the time was likely to be that he did not like so much attention.

However, Arthur still got considerable attention from his reputation to be a maniac, which was an image that was believed by the majority of the residents of Maycomb, however based only on rumours. If it were not for this incorrect view of Arthur Radley, he would have been more accepted in the Maycomb society, and able to avoid large amounts of attention that he would receive if he ever left the Radley House.

Jem and Scout hated Mrs Dubose due to "ruthless interrogation" they would have to endure every time they passed her house. The children however, did not know all about Mrs Dubose herself. They later came to know that Mrs Dubose was a morphine addict but chose not to take the drugs that she had been prescribed as a painkiller. This was because "she said she was going to leave this world beholden to nothing and nobody," therefore she could not rely on the drug as a painkiller. If the children had known more about Mrs Dubose, they would have respected have more, being fairer to her in her situation.

Aunt Alexandra was not liked much by Scout as she saw her to be a very unfair lady who did not treat her well. Scout did not realise that her Aunt Alexandra was doing the best she could to look after Scout and raise her to be a respectable person in the way she thought best. If Scout had followed Atticus's advice that to realise more about someone, Scout should "climb into their skin, and walk around in it." Due to the fact that Scout did not try to understand her Aunt Alexandra more, she had an incorrect opinion of her.

The author of the book, Harper Lee, used a technique involving telling the story in Scout's point of view. This showed the events in a manner, which highlighted the dark, and corrupted themes in the story, by contrasting them to the fair and good world a young child would believe in. This technique was especially useful when involving the court case. The injustice of the racism between the Anglo-Saxons and the African-Americans was not agreed to by the innocent mind of Scout's therefore showing the immorality more clearly. The use of the child learning to empathise with people is also a good view to show the novel from as it gives a chance for the reader to gain the knowledge at the same rate of the child, creating a better understanding of the need for empathy.

These situations between different people involving misunderstanding and prejudice lead to discrimination to people. Shown through the eyes of a young girl, the events involving this prejudice are accentuated, conveying the message of To Kill a Mockingbird - That empathy is necessary to protect against the evils of discrimination from prejudice.