The novel “To Kill Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is one of the greatest American literature books in the twentieth century. Lee used the novel to express the feelings and frustration of the black community during the early days of the 1930s, though the book was published in the early 1960s during the civil right movement. The novel is about the lifestyle of two kids Scout and Jem as they grow up in the Maycomb County. The novel illustrates the lifestyle of different families such as Atticus Finch, Cunningham, Bob Ewell and Tom Robinson. In the novel, there are numerous examples of family conformity with societal rules and laws. Lee points that during those days there was set of rules which each family had to conform to in order to live peacefully. However, this essay analyzes the families of Atticus Finch and Cunningham and how they comply with the rules of the land. The essay will further examine consequences for a resistance of those standards.
In the novel, the author pointed that Atticus family is one of the highly respected families of the Maycomb County. The family was faced with challenges because of its refusal to conform to rules or laws of the society. In the novel, Atticus family is one of high-level class families, but Atticus Finch trained his children to respect people from other races especially the black people. Atticus argues that everyone is equal and every person should be given an opportunity to prosper. They do not understand why people must be separated by the color of their skins and therefore, the idea is retrogressive. It shows a clear different between Atticus family and the families of other white people. For instance, in school Scout was the only kid who could talk and interacts freely with blacks kids without showing any disrespect and discrimination because of the race. The author points that Scout offered Walter Cunningham money for lunch in school even though Walter Cunningham could not accept because of fear being reprimanded by his parents. Scout and Jem decline to conform to the rules which forbid them from having contact with black families.
In the novel, it is pointed that the upbringing of Scout and Jem was different from the rest of white kids in the Maycomb County. Atticus, a single father, brought up his children with decorum. He takes a great moment to instill a strong sense of morality in his kids. He honestly provides answers to all questions, his children ask. He encourages them to work hard and treat them well as adults so they can grow to understand what is happening in the society. On the other hand, the teacher at Scout’s school has a particular understanding of what kids are supposed to study and will do what it takes to hold a child back.
It is because of the relationship between Scout and other black children who she has been warned several times to delink friendship, and she could not do that. She is seen by other her fellow whites as someone who is very disrespectful and therefore, she would be treated as black. For instance, a teacher asks Scout to write when they are in class and Scout draft a script, however, she harasses her and asking her to be doing that more often, simply because what Scout wrote is not supposed to be taught at that stage until much later. She encourages her to continue doing the opposite things so that Scout can fail in class.
The Cunningham family is also one of the families who conformed to the laws of the land. In the novel, the Cunningham family is portrayed as an honest and hardworking family. They spend a better part of their day on their land working on the farm because the family was majorly small scale farmers. The does not have wealth or money compared to other families such as Atticus Finch. Cunningham trained his children, to be honest, and respect the traditional. His kids are growing up knowing that there are certain rules which they could not violate. For instance, When Miss Caroline offered Walter Cunningham money to buy shoes, he declined. It is because he is taught not to accept gifts which he cannot pay back. The Cunningham family is poor and depends on farming to sustain them, though the output is too little to cater for the whole family and make them live a comfortable life as Atticus family, the family works hard to earn a living and respect the rules of the land.
The element of social and political inequality is practiced in the Maycomb County, and the entire State of Alabama. The author says that social and political equality was exercise based on an individual color of the skin. Many occasions the black communities were denied essential services such as in healthcare, education and other places. In the novel, the author points that white people were not allowed to share or interact with the black families and any white who violates the order would be treated as black a person. However, when Scout went against the directives to freely associates with her classmate Walter Cunningham, her teachers and the rest of her fellow white students condemned her and called her names. It was evidence when Scout’s teacher points that “I think there’s just one kind of folks” (25) in references to Walter Cunningham.
Most importantly, families who failed to conform to those rules were punished no matter the race. The author noted that Atticus family was humiliated several times by other people because of their association with black people. It is proper to note that social inequality was not only directed against blacks but also directed against some white people especially whites who associate with black community. In the novel, the notion of social inequality is label upon Scout and Jem during the time when Aunt Alexandra came to stay with them. During this period, Atticus was compelled to explain to the family where the Finches located on the social ladder. Atticus illustrates to the family that “you aunt has requested me to try my best to make you and Jean Louise happy, that you belong to a superior class not just run off the mill people, and to make sure that you know that you are a product of many generations’ gentle upbringing” (Lee 133). It was purposely done to ensure that Jem and Scout disconnect their relationship with black kids.
In a nutshell, Atticus was trying to inform Scout, Jem and other family members that Finches did not come from bad family and were always high up in the society hierarchy. It is clear that their Aunt wanted them to understand their position in the society so they can act in a respectable manner. Their aunt expected them to stop any further contact with other blacks kids like Walter Cunningham and others before they get punished for violating the rules of the society. The author points that Scout and Jem’ aunt insisted that they must start interacting with people with the similar color of skin only, and specified that they should stay away from black people (143). This did not make Atticus change their minds and adopt the stereotype behavior towards black people as expected of them. Throughout the novel, Atticus family did not conform to the rules of the society. Atticus refused to stop interacting with black people and went ahead to invite Cunningham for dinner at his home.
In the novel, the author points that black people were rank last in the society hierarchy no matter the amount of wealth a person has. The black were rank below the white family, and nothing could take that away. The author explains that in the Maycomb society Atticus family are rank higher followed by other whites, while Ewell is ranked below. Then blacks come after Ewell whom Atticus regards as trash. It brings out clearly the act of society rules which everyone expected to follow and the way all families were conforming to the societal norms. The family of Scout confirms with the rules, but she does not understand why it is so. She believes that everyone deserves to become an equal opportunity, no matter the family one comes from. For instance, she could not be allowed to spend time with Walter Cunningham.
The novel shows clear evidence of racial injustices towards black community leaving in Maycomb County. There were always excuses made to protect the white in Maycomb County even when the evidence is very clear. In the novel, it is very clear that Bob Ewell was a very mean man. It was well –known by almost everyone that Ewell was abusive to his daughter Mayella. The chance that Ewell violated his daughter was high, but nobody could look into because he was white and therefore, a soft spot or someone who could take the blame was Tom Robinson because he was black. It caused a serious uproar among the black people who dwells in Maycomb County.
However, after Tom Robinson had been arrested, he could not get proper justice as the rest. No lawyer could agree to present him before the court law for fear of being reprimanded by the society. This made Atticus take the case and represented Robinson throughout the trial. However, Atticus points that the process of the jury could be a fair trial because of the process of jury selection was very biases, and the judge had a decision about the case because of the defense were a black person. A clear manifestation of injustices towards black population, Tom Robinson was jailed for a crime he did not commit. For instance, Atticus stated that the only evidence before the jury is Robinson is black, and it unfortunate Robinson is going to be jailed because he is black and his accusers are white. Therefore, the Robinson case shows a clear racial injustice and it is one of the many examples of racism injustice in the novel. In conclusion, racism as a theme is used by the author to illustrates the rule of conformity and consequences faced by people who could follow those laws
Lee, Harper. To Kill Mockingbird. New York: Warner Books, 1960.