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The Prejudice of Race, Gender and Social Class in The Novel "To Kill a Mockingbird"

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The Prejudice of Race, Gender and Social Class in The Novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" essay

As a story based on The Great Depression, the time period shapes many aspects of life that contrast widely to that of today’s society. The 1930’s in the south was an era of inequality in many ways. Although many years after the abolition of slavery and rights for colored people were beginning to arise, racism still continued in the south as people were not able to let go of old habits and traditions. As well as this, rights for women was still a new concept during this time period, women’s suffrage only becoming a law in 1920. Women and blacks were treated as less superior, a conflict shown widely in this story of injustice and coming of age for a young girl learning about the world she lives in. In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, the author portrays the theme of prejudice in many aspects of life in Maycomb, including that of race, gender, and social class to show the immense inequality of this time period.

Race plays a huge part in To Kill a Mockingbird, shown mainly as a black man is convicted of a rape he did not do because of his race. “In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, white man’s always wins”, “as you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men everyday of your life” . This quote portrays the results of inequality in this time. Although the truth is clear that Tom is innocent, people of this time are so controlled by society’s ideas on race that they falsely accused him. Because of this mindset, another innocent man, out of many during this time, was sentenced to a death he didn’t deserve. Much like a mockingbird, colored people are killed without consideration.

Gender roles were another big part of life during this time and set the path for many young women to live as servants for others. This concept was not accepted by Scout, who fought the influence of others trying to change her. As a “tomboy”, Scout wanted to be treated equal to Jem and not be seen as weak because of her gender. “I was not so sure, but Jem told me I was being a girl that girl’s always imagined things, that’s why other people hated them so and if I started behaving like one, I could just go off and find some to play with”  . This quote shows that from a young age, kids are taught that men are superior. Because of this, Scout tries her hardest to show others that while she is a girl, she still wants to belong in her friend group equally.

Social class plays another big role in Maycomb, and one’s name paves the way for how one is treated and judged. An example of this is the Ewell family, who is treated above the law because of their class and name. Each family is treated a certain way in order to keep the peace, and while this may help keep problems from arising in the law, it also creates stereotypes and drama within the town. “‘But I want to play with Walter, Aunty, Why can’t I?’ She took off her glasses and stared at me. ‘I’ll tell you why’ she said, ‘Because he-is-trash, that’s why you can’t play with him’” (Lee 225). This quote explains how big of a role class and name plays in how others saw people. Aunt Alexandra based her opinions on these ideas, not who they truly are, much like many others in Maycomb.

Overall, prejudice is a concept that has existed forever and will continue to exist as long as people judge others based on their differences. Before Tom Robinson, the habit of judging others based on race and class was easy, as people chose to stick to the status quo. When Tom was convicted, though, many were able to see the underlying issues of their town and question whether it was fair. Although some were pleased by the conviction, those such as Jem, Scout, Atticus, and the black community were left ashamed of how prejudice had taken over their town, and the world for that matter. In the end, prejudice remains one of the greatest conflicts in life and is the root of many issues, back then in a period of internalized and institutionalized racism, as well as today, as people hide being a false sense of equality.

In To Kill A Mockingbird, prejudice is one of the major themes that is repeated throughout the book. Many characters act prejudiced against other characters, while others try to fight back. The setting takes place in Maycomb, Alabama. The narrator of the book is a young girl named Scout who is very innocent. One of the main reasons Harper Lee has a child narrate the book is so that there is not much bias when discussing important topics like prejudice. The main character Scout only sees people as people which is very different from how other people in the town act. Other people in the town show prejudice. The three types of prejudice shown in the book are race, socioeconomic, and gender. Harper Lee uses the three different types of prejudice to criticize society, and to try to get society to change their ways.

The first example of prejudice is racial prejudice. This is shown through what Atticus says in his closing argument “‘… in the cynical confidence that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption–the evil assumption–that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women…’” (Lee 273). This quote is Atticus trying to get the town to look past their prejudice and to just look at the facts. It is clear that Tom Robinson didn’t do what Mayella Ewell claims he did, but the town believes her because of their racial prejudice. Atticus wants the people to try to get past their prejudice because it is terrible to assume that everyone is the same based solely on their color or race. The people in the town are blinded by their prejudice, and Harper Lee uses this quote to show that we can get past our ways of letting our prejudice and views blind us from seeing the truth. Not only do opposing races encountered prejudice, but people of the same race can also face the effects

In To Kill A Mockingbird, prejudice is one of the major themes that is repeated throughout the book. Many characters act prejudiced against other characters, while others try to fight back. The setting takes place in Maycomb, Alabama. The narrator of the book is a young girl named Scout who is very innocent. One of the main reasons Harper Lee has a child narrate the book is so that there is not much bias when discussing important topics like prejudice. The main character Scout only sees people as people which is very different from how other people in the town act. Other people in the town show prejudice. The three types of prejudice shown in the book are race, socioeconomic, and gender. Harper Lee uses the three different types of prejudice to criticize society, and to try to get society to change their ways.

The first example of prejudice is racial prejudice. This is shown through what Atticus says in his closing argument “‘… in the cynical confidence that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption–the evil assumption–that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women…’” (Lee 273). This quote is Atticus trying to get the town to look past their prejudice and to just look at the facts. It is clear that Tom Robinson didn’t do what Mayella Ewell claims he did, but the town believes her because of their racial prejudice. Atticus wants the people to try to get past their prejudice because it is terrible to assume that everyone is the same based solely on their color or race. The people in the town are blinded by their prejudice, and Harper Lee uses this quote to show that we can get past our ways of letting our prejudice and views blind us from seeing the truth. Not only do opposing races encountered prejudice, but people of the same race can also face the effects of prejudice. Jem and Scout encounter prejudice when they go to church with Calpurnia. “Lula stopped, but said, ‘You ain’t got no business bringin’ white chillun here–they got their church, we got our’n’” (Lee 158). Jem and Scout have not really encountered prejudice until that moment. Jem and Scout don’t understand why Lula is acting this way, and are offended by this. Harper Lee uses this quote to show that there are two sides where both races in the town are in the wrong because they both act upon prejudice. Harper Lee also wants us to realize that it doesn’t have to be this way, and we can treat each other equally. When Atticus decides to take on the responsibility on the trial, Jem and Scout encounter even more prejudice. One of their classmates, Cecil Jacobs, says “‘My folks said your daddy was a disgrace an’ that n***** oughta hang from the water-tank!’” (Lee 102). Cecil Jacobs says this because his parents are mad, like the rest of the town, Atticus is defending someone they think is guilty. Cecil Jacobs learned to act this way from his parents. Harper Lee uses this quote to show us that children absorb what their parents say and repeat it without thinking what it means. She wants people to be careful of what they say around their kids, and to teach them to accept everyone. She focuses a lot on racial prejudice in the book to try to get us to open up our minds to racial equality.

The second example of prejudice is socioeconomic. An example of this is when Jem says “‘There’s four kinds of folks in the world. There’s the ordinary kind like us and the neighbors, there’s the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down a the dump, and the Negroes’” (Lee 302). In the book, Jem in maturing, and while he is maturing, he is also losing his innocence. The town’s prejudice is starting to influence him and he is starting to see through the town’s eyes. Scout on the other hand just sees folks for folks. She still has her innocence. Harper Lee uses this quote to criticize that we are teaching our children to be like this. She believes that we need to change this, and look past social classes and see people for who they are and not by where they came from. Later in the book, Aunt Alexandra makes a comment about Cunninghams and their social class. She says “‘Jean Louise, there is no doubt in my mind that they’re good folks. But they’re not our kind of folks’” (Lee 299). Aunt Alexandra says this because she thinks that they are good people, but because they are not in the same social class she thinks less of them. Harper Lee uses this quote to show how people are prejudice and how they act when they find out that people are in a low class than them. Harper Lee wants her readers to look past their social class and see everyone the same. A little later in the chapter, Aunt Alexandra makes another comment about the Cunninghams. She says ‘“The thing is, you can scrub Walter Cunningham till he shines, you can put him in shoes and a new suit, but he’ll never be like Jem. Besides, there’s a drinking streak in the family a mile wide. Finch women aren’t interested in that sort of people’” (Lee 300). She says this because just like the other quote she thinks that she is above the Cunninghams just because of her social class. She’s trying to enforce her prejudice upon Scout. Harper Lee uses this quote to show that without knowing sometimes people enforce things on children when they barely understand what it means. In summary, Harper Lee wants us to look past social class and see the people for who they are.

The third example of prejudice is gender prejudice. Scout’s Aunt expects her to be a perfect little girl and to act proper. She also expects Scout to fit into society’s views of girls. Scout acknowledges this when she says “Aunt Alexandra’s vision of my deportment involved playing with small stoves, tea sets, and wearing the Add-A-Pearl necklace she gave me when I was born; furthermore, I should be a ray of sunshine in my father’s lonely life” (Lee 108). This quote shows gender prejudice because Aunt Alexandra is enforcing an outdated stereotype onto Scout just because society says to do so. Harper Lee uses this quote and quotes like this throughout the book to show how ridiculous the gender norms society tries to place on us are. She does so to try to get people to realize that they don’t have to go along with society’s stereotypes, and for people to try to be their own person. Aunt Alexandra adds to the stereotype of women being proper and needing protection. Later in the book, Judge Taylor says “‘There has been a request… That this courtroom be cleared of spectators, or at least of women and children’” (Lee 232). This quote puts women and children in the same category of needing protection or being shielded from something. The person who requested this thinks that women need as much protection as children, which is a lot. The person thinks that women should be shielded from the idea of rape. This is prejudiced because it proposes the idea that women can not handle this topic, but how can they protect themselves if they are not educated on the matter. Harper Lee uses this quote to criticize society on how they treat children, and to show that women are stronger than people think. In the beginning of the book, Jem acts like being a girl is a bad thing. He said “‘Nothin’ to it. I swear, Scout, sometimes you at so much like a girl it’s mortifyin’’” (Lee 50). Jem says that it is “mortifying” to act like a girl. Usually when kids are young, they act prejudiced against the other gender without even realizing it. The outdated stereotype of acting like a girl is used by Harper Lee to try to get society to stop using this stereotype. Scout is pressured by her brother to stop acting like a girl, but it should not be a bad thing to act like a girl. Overall, Harper Lee uses these quotes about gender prejudice to show that these outdated stereotypes should be disregarded.

Throughout To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee uses prejudice to criticize society. She uses racial, socioeconomic, and gender prejudice to achieve this. Racial prejudice is shown during Tom Robinson’s trial. Atticus tries to get the jury to get past their prejudice and just focus on the facts, but fails to do so. The people of both races act upon prejudice against each other. Socioeconomic prejudice is shown when Jem classifies the people of Maycomb into different social groups. Jem now sees people for their social class instead of what type of people they are. It is also shown when Aunt Alexandra makes comments about the Cunninghams. She does so because she thinks that she is higher than then because of their social class. Gender prejudice is shown through Scout’s statement about how her Aunt Alexandra thinks she should act. People of the town are also prejudiced against women because they act like they need as much protection as children. Jem also makes a comment about Scout acting like a girl. Jem makes it sound like it is terrible to act like a girl. Harper Lee uses all these examples to try to get people to stop following societies stereotype about race, socioeconomic, and gender to get people to be their own people and look at people for more than their race, gender, and social class.

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The Prejudice of Race, Gender and Social Class in the Novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”. (2022, April 07). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 7, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-prejudice-of-race-gender-and-social-class-during-the-great-depression-in-to-kill-a-mockingbird-a-novel-by-harper-lee/
“The Prejudice of Race, Gender and Social Class in the Novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”.” GradesFixer, 07 Apr. 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-prejudice-of-race-gender-and-social-class-during-the-great-depression-in-to-kill-a-mockingbird-a-novel-by-harper-lee/
The Prejudice of Race, Gender and Social Class in the Novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-prejudice-of-race-gender-and-social-class-during-the-great-depression-in-to-kill-a-mockingbird-a-novel-by-harper-lee/> [Accessed 7 Oct. 2022].
The Prejudice of Race, Gender and Social Class in the Novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Apr 07 [cited 2022 Oct 7]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-prejudice-of-race-gender-and-social-class-during-the-great-depression-in-to-kill-a-mockingbird-a-novel-by-harper-lee/
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