"To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee: Discourse of Racism and the Influence of Atticus and Aunt Alexandra on Scout

Essay by _Gem_High School, 10th grade October 2006

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In Harper Lee's Novel, 'To Kill A Mockingbird', Maycomb is a town of prejudice, racial intolerance and conservative views. Despite this, there are still a few members of the community who believe in racial tolerance. The racial opinions of the town, as seen in Aunt Alexandra's Missionary Group, conflict with the racially tolerant beliefs of people such as Atticus Finch. It is evident that Scout Finch must choose which ideas to adapt and which to reject, those of her father or those of her Aunt and Maycomb in general. Ultimately, it is her father's opinions which influence Scout.

The ladies of Aunt Alexandra's Missionary Group reflect Maycomb's harsh attitudes through their discussion towards the end of the novel. For the women of this so called 'charity group', a good person is not an African American. The women assume that all African Americans are sinful and could not be leading Christian lifestyles.

'Sin and squalor...Thing that church ought to do is help her lead a Christian life for those children from here on out. Some of the men ought to go out there and tell that preacher to encourage her'. Mrs Merriweather is speaking about an African American who leads a perfectly respectable life. This operates in a discourse of racism as it shows that the women think they are superior to the African Americans when they are really being prejudice. The women also set a standard for the African Americans, that they should be neither seen nor heard. 'There's nothing more distracting than a sulky darky. Their mouths go down to here. Just ruins your day to have one of 'em in your kitchen.' Mrs Merriweather was referring to the attitudes of the African Americans after Tom's sentence to death. Her words operate in a discourse of racism as...