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In the novel, “To Kill A Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee, she conveys the idea that characters are a product of their environment. Throughout the book, it is continuously portrayed that the African Americans are part of the lowest class in society. This is mainly shown through Robert Ewell’s trial against Tom Robinson, as he wants to cover up for his daughter wanting to have a sexual relationship with Tom. Scout and Jem are members of the Finch family, who are about half way up the social status pyramid. Jem and Scout Finch disagree with the mistreatment of the African Americans, and follow in their father’s footsteps, as he provides protection for all his clients, in the form of a lawyer. Atticus Finch is a lawyer who treats everyone the same, no matter their position on the social pyramid. Calpurnia is the African American slave to the Finch family, and seems to enjoy working for them. When she goes to church, she changes her attitude and her personality to fit in with people who are different to her. These are just a few examples of how Harper Lee shows that characters are a product of their environment.
Mayella Ewell’s trial against Tom Robinson is a prime example of characters being a product of their environment. Tom Robinson is an African American who often walks past the Ewell’s house on the way to his work. Mayella Ewell is the daughter of Robert Ewell, who is a drunkard and beats his sons and daughters when he is in a foul mood. She runs a trial against Tom Robinson when her father comes back to the property, and finds Mayella on top of Tom Robinson, then Tom flees the property as African American’s can be arrested by a person not wanting them to be on their property. They were disliked so much back in that era, that a fair court case was hard to run, without issues of racism affecting the outcome. “I seen that black n—-r yonder ruttin’ on my Mayella” (Ch. 17), Robert said. In this quote, he attempts to pass the blame onto Tom, even though he has seen his daughter, Mayella, on top of Tom. Many white people will take this in easily as a solid form of proof, yet the African Americans are still not certain, even though they know they cannot take part in this. “It is not until he sees that Tom Robinson has a withered left arm and could never have inflicted the bruises that Mayella suffered that Bob Ewell understands how Atticus has cleverly discredited his testimony” (Ch. 17). This shows that Bob does not have strong evidence/proof that Tom had not done the ‘crime’, yet he still came to court hoping that his made-up story would be enough to get Tom in prison, which turns out that it was enough, as it was an extremely biased era. Harper Lee is easily able to convey that characters are a product of their environment, as people know this has happened in the past, and gives us similar circumstances to what could’ve happened in this era.
Scout and Jem Finch follow in their father’s footsteps as they disagree with society and their opinions on the African Americans, just because they appear different from others. They cannot see a reason to classify the African American people, as any different to themselves. “Naw, Jem, I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks” (P. 250). In this quote, it shows Scout saying what she believes to be true, yet society does not agree with her point of view and believe the African American people should still be discriminated against and be kept as the lowest class. “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passing” (To Kill a Mockingbird, 1962) (see * at bottom of page). Reverend Sykes said this quote, and he is an African American. This portrays that even though white people were significantly affected by their environment, African Americans did not significantly oppose this, and show hatred towards all white people because of this. Almost none of the African Americans have any grudges against many white people, except against Robert Ewell who caused a pointless trial against Tom Robinson. Yet they still have respect for ‘white’ people, such as Atticus Finch. Atticus defended Tom, in court, to the best of his ability but ended up losing the trial. Even though he did not successfully defend Tom, they African American peoples still had a high level of respect for him. Harper Lee portrays quite clearly that characters are a product of their environment, but this changes majorly in the next couple of decades.
When Calpurnia goes to church, she changes her attitude and her personality to fit in with people who are different to her. This is due to her trying to fit in with other people of her race, and for her to appear culturally the same as the other African American’s than she is. Women of that era were forced to act differently from what they want to act like and have a high level of expectations forced down upon themselves. “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” (P. 90). Despite what this quote states, Scout does not approve of these expectations, and would much rather be in the garden, or playing around with other boys and getting dirty in the mud. “Again I thought her voice strange: she was talking like the rest of them” (P. 131). This shows that Calpurnia wishes to fit in amongst the people of her own race and wants to keep Jem and Scout safe and able to maintain their visits to the church with her possibly. This quote also shows that Calpurnia still wants to be included within her own race, even though they may be at the bottom of the society’s classes. These circumstances still show that even people who may appear not to be a product of their environment, still want to fit in with their own race, and therefore are affected by other people who are like them.
In the novel, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, by Harper Lee, she portrays that characters are a product of their environment through many ways. Mainly through how people of their same race act towards each other, and the hatred of the White American race between the African American race. Throughout the story she is continuously able to show many examples of the disadvantages people have received because of the continuous process of characters staying the product of the same environment for a long time.
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