To Kill a Mockingbird

The concept of race is one that is frequently used to classify human populations into various racial groups based on a mix of shared genetics, physical characteristics like skin color, ancestry, and social and cultural traits. (Racism). Even though these classifications are not mainly based on contemporary biology, they tend to have a significant impact on contemporary social interactions.

The term "racism," which is taken from the word "race," is used to describe prejudice or discrimination against people of a different race because of a perceived superiority of one's own race. For decades the racist ideology has manifested itself in many aspects of the social life and political systems resulting in devastating effects (Racism). The novel “To kill a Mockingbird” follows the story of a Black man, Tom Robinson accused of raping a young white Girl, despite the fact that he did not do it, Robinson faces conviction in the hands of a racially biased all-white jury. This paper provides a detailed analysis of how Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” develops the theme of race and racism.

Race and Racism/ Racial Prejudice, in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The story in “To Kill a Mockingbird” takes place in the early 20th century, specifically in the 1930s during the Great Depression, which was a period of economic turmoil in most global nations including the US. In the American history, the 1930s were also a controversial period following the establishment of the Jim Crow segregation laws as well as the ruling of Plessy vs. Ferguson, concerning this, To Kill a Mockingbird; an acclaimed novel portrays experiences of the South in relation to racial discrimination faced by the African Americans.

The novel explores human morality and the inherent goodness or rather evilness of human beings by revolving around characters such as Mr. Robinson and Atticus. In the novel, Atticus is presented as a firm believer that human beings possess aspects of both good and evil, despite this, Atticus strongly believes that good ultimately prevails. Narrated through Scout’s viewpoint, Atticus is presented as a teacher both to his two children, Jem and Scout and also the entire town of Maycomb; a town in the American’s South (To Kill a Mockingbird Themes). Moreover, he is also portrayed as the “voice of not only justice but also rationalism” in a town full of highly emotional as well as ignorant, racially prejudiced individuals. Unlike most people in the town, Atticus Finch; a lawyer, through integrity and great courage works hard to defend Tom Robinson; an innocent Black man, throughout the novel, he truly holds his moral beliefs and justice well above the society’s racial discrimination (To Kill a Mockingbird Themes). Therefore, Atticus is faced with the task of overcoming the deeply ingrained racism, which is, in this case, a Herculean task.

Undoubtedly race is one of the primary elements that to a great extent distinguishes the novel’s characters; it is also one of the social elements through which the townsmen of Maycomb primarily identify themselves as well as others. The theme of race is first depicted through the people of Maycomb and Mr. Robinson, Calpurnia and her son Zeebo. Unlike the townsmen Mr. Robinson, Calpurnia and her son Zeebo are of African American descent in a town full of white people; therefore, he is separated from the town’s people who in this case are white on the basis of both his ancestry and his skin color. In the case of Mr. Robinson, as a result of his skin color, he is treated differently from the towns’ people who regard him to be a lesser human being. This is depicted through his alienation from the townsmen (To Kill a Mockingbird Themes).

The Maycomb is home two main races thus, Whites and Blacks where white people are the majority and ultimately the dominant race. Due to racial differences as well as stereotypes, racism is evident throughout the novel’s storyline. The first instance that depicts racism is Maycomb’s townsmen stereotypical views; that Blacks are lesser human beings or rather inferiors, as well as their racial slurs and derogatory terms used when referring to Black people. In the novel, the term “Nigger” is one of the derogatory terms prevalently used by the townsmen to refer Black people. When Atticus is referred to as “Nigger-lover,” he explains to scout that the term “Nigger” is an ugly term that is used to label Black people, while “Nigger-lover” refers to people that seem to favor Africans over Whites such as in this case (Lee, 112). The derogatory term is also used by other characters such as Bob Ewell in court when he states, “I seen that black nigger yonder ruttin’ on my Mayella.” (Lee, 173).

In Maycomb intimate relations between Whites and Blacks is considered as taboo; hence, such relationships result in social ostracism as well as out casting from the society, thereby, portraying the Maycomb society as racially prejudiced. Such is the case of Mr. Raymond who after marrying a Black woman despite being White is forced to pretend to be an alcoholic by carrying a bottle of Coca-Cola to excuse his actions.

The character Lula also advances the theme of racism. When Calpurnia; Atticus’s house help takes both Jem and Scout to her church they experience racism first-hand when Lula states that, "You ain't got no business bringin' white chillun here—they got their church, we got our'n. It is our church, ain't it, Miss Cal?" (Lee, 119). However, Lulu’s sentiments are dismissed particularly by Calpurnia’s son Zeebo. The theme is also advanced through the debate surrounding the Tom Robison case. When Tom Robison is accused of rape, Atticus strongly believes in his innocence; as a result, he decided to be his lawyer to defend him in court thereby, proving his innocence. The Maycomb’s white community is also depicted as undoubtedly racist, and Atticus’s decision results in a process termed as “Other-ing” by Association” whereby, he and his family are alienated or rather ostracized from the Maycomb community. Some of the statement indicating him being ostracized include, “Grandma says it’s bad enough he lets you all run wild, but now he’s turned out a nigger-lover we’ll never be able to walk the streets of Maycomb again. He’s ruinin’ the family, that’s what he’s doin” (Lee, 83). Other signs of Atticus and being ostracized are embedded in statements such as, “Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for!” (Lee, 102).

The courtroom setting; during Tom Robinson’s trial, also depicts the theme of racism particularly racial segregation, through the sitting arrangements. In the court, Whites and Blacks are sited in different places, however, when Atticus and his family enter the courtroom, instead of sitting with other white members of the community they sit together with the Blacks. After the trial concludes, Tom Robinson is found guilty by the “all-white jury” of rape despite the many pieces of evidence that he is, in fact, an innocent man. In Atticus’s report, he reinforces the theme of racism when he says that, “in our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins.” (Lee, 220). Conclusively, it is quite clear that the themes of race and racism are to a great extent central to Harper Lee’s novel “To kill a Mocking Bird.” The novel is also seminal work in the US history as it was developed at a time when the US civil rights movements were fighting to eliminate racism and racial segregation.

Works Cited

Lee, Herper. To Kill a Mockingbird (Enhanced Edition). Harper Collins, 2014, pp. 336.

“Racism”. Anti-Defamation League, 2017, Accessed 15 December, 2017.

“To Kill a Mockingbird Themes: Prejudice, Racism, Justice and Courage”. To Kill a Mockingbird, (n.d). Assessed 15 December 2017.

Deadline is approaching?

Wait no more. Let us write you an essay from scratch

Receive Paper In 3 Hours
Calculate the Price
275 words
First order 15%
Total Price:
$38.07 $38.07
Calculating ellipsis
Hire an expert
This discount is valid only for orders of new customer and with the total more than 25$
This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Find Out the Cost of Your Paper

Get Price