In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, the themes of discrimination and innocence appears to go hand-in-hand. These alike themes are shown through the “Mockingbirds” of the novel. The Mockingbirds of the novel are guiltless people that have been hurt in some way by humanity. Throughout the novel Tom and Boo do not harm anyone but they are harmed in return. In a sense, their disabilities, Tom’s skin color and Boo’s emotional and mental health, are causes for their innocence because of the town they live in and especially how they are treated by the people living in the town. Because the people of Maycomb can only see what they wish to, the Mockingbirds’ innocence and disabilities are essentially used against them.
Tom Robinson is a main victim of discrimination. Tom is a black, quiet man living in the small prejudice town of Maycomb, Alabama. He has a hard job working in cotton fields trying to provide for his wife and kids. On the way to his job he passes the Ewell’s house and stops to help Mayella anytime she needs it being the nice and respectful young man he was. He was a very helpful man but he was not white so his services did not count. He never harms Mayella or her siblings but he is taking to court in accused of raping Mayella after her dad saw her hug and kiss him. Lee uses this situation to create awareness about racism and to emphasize the struggle of being an African American during that time period.
Although it is made clear that he is innocent of this crime he is a “Negro “so he is automatically made guilty. The jury is quick to believe that “… some Negros lie, some Negros are immoral, some Negro man are not to be trusted around women… “(Lee 273) while purposely forgetting the fact that “this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men.” (Lee 273) Tom’s skin color will not allow him to be innocent in any circumstance during this time. The racism and discrimination of the Maycomb people can be seen in its rawest form during this situation. This situation shows the aspect of discrimination by identifying “… White refusal to recognize black equality before the law and white treatment of blacks as less than human.”(Hacht)
Tom Robinson is also one of the more perfect layouts of a Mockingbird. According to Miss Maudie Mockingbirds only “… make music for us to enjoy…” An example of this could be how Tom provided Mayella with services anytime she needed them and he never asked for anything in return. Tom feels bad for Mayella because he has an idea of how her father is treating her while she is at home. He can never tell anyone this because he is at the bottom of the totem pole and it would be considered disrespectful for someone of his stature, the lowest class, to help a white person. His willingness to lend Mayella a helping hand is what Bob Ewell uses against him to accuse him of raping her.
During the trial, Tom’s other disability is shown. Tom’s left arm was paralyzed because it was caught in a cotton gin when he was a young boy. Bob Ewell, during the trial, claims that Tom punched him with his left hand and obviously this cannot be true if he is not able to use his left arm or hand without help. He uses his disability as evidence and although it does show that Bob Ewell is unmistakably lying, it still does not change the fact that his more noticeable disability, his skin color, is what the jury actually takes into consideration. Again Lee uses this evidence to emphasize how much people dislike blacks in that time period.
Tom’s helpfulness and innocence is what forces him into the trial and his disabilities are used against him by the jury to ultimately harm and destroy him. When all is said and done, the jury is still quick to “take the word of the disreputable Ewells against that of a black man.”(Constantakis) and believe that Tom is guilty of the raping of Mayella and Tom is sentenced to death. Unfortunately, Tom’s disabilities and his innocent and helpful gestures for Mayella lead to his much more pleasant.
Arthur “Boo” Radley is another, almost perfect, symbol of a Mockingbird in To Kill a Mockingbird. Boo is a quiet, lonesome man living in Macomb. Arthur was harmed emotionally and mentally by his father when he was a child. It is believed that he lives in solitary and regularly avoids contact with all other human beings because of his horrendous childhood. Based on the rumors spread about him, like how there was “a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped and he drooled most of the time.” (Lee 10), the children of Maycomb seem to believe that he is a terrible person and was often discriminated because of his mental issues. Boo is “presumed to be a monster by the court of public opinion.” (Telgen) Fifteen years later, Arthur made another appearance to the town of Maycomb when it was reported that he stabbed his father with a pair of scissors. Everyone in Maycomb had the impression that he went crazy. The whole town continued to think horrible things about him and the kids played jokes on his house.
Arthur , on no account, did anything wrong to the towns people in Maycomb, except to his father which happened twenty five years before the story even began, but somehow he was the topic of every scary story and was the center of every joke or cruel prank. The Maycomb people still believe that he is still the same villonus Boo Radley because they never get to see his innocence first hand.
Jem first saw Boo’s innocence and gentleness after he went back to the Radley house to retrieve his overalls. His overalls were neatly folded over the fence of the Radley house. Boo saves Jem’s behind when doing this because he knows what it feels like to be punished by a father and he did not want Jem to feel what he felt. This creates a parallel between Jem and Boo. Harper places Jem in that situation to make him aware of the fact that Arthur “Boo” Radley was more complex than the average Maycomb towns person would believe. This situation allows Jem to get a glimpse into Boo’s life and allows him to see a side of Boo that the Maycomb town has never seen.
After Boo made his first appearance to Jem he continued to leave gifts and treats a hole in a tree for Jem and Scout to find and have. Harper does this to show Boo’s innocence and his caring behavior, a side no one really gets to seeHis Mockingbird like behavior is also shown when Arthur notices coming back from a carnival and Bob Ewell tried attacking the children. Bob Ewell was upset that Atticus represented a black man and made him look like a violent imbecile in front of the whole town. He was going to attempt to get his revenge by harming Atticus’ children but Arthur helped the children and Atticus out by preventing that horrible event from happening. Boo knew he could get in trouble but Mr. Tate told Atticus that Bob fell on the knife killing himself. Boo was technically only guilty of self defense but Mr. Tate knew how the town would react to hearing that Arthur “Boo Radley killed Bob Ewell. This is an ideal of how “the protection of innocent people parallels the protection of mockingbirds.”(Champion)