Tom Robinson's Characters and The Depiction of Racism Influence

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Words: 1384 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: Jan 29, 2019

Words: 1384|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: Jan 29, 2019

The Disease of Color

From a subtle thought in a man’s head to genocide, racism has infected all forms of society throughout the existence of humanity. Racism spread throughout the world as society changed from a group to separation based on chemicals in our skin. Eventually, lynching, genocide, and violent verbal and physical abuse happened. Harper Lee describes such events in her book To Kill a Mockingbird. Ms. Lee struggles with the effect of racism through the use of different characters in Maycomb with the use of the three unique characters Tom Robinson, Calpurnia, and Scout.

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Culturally accepted racism is seen in Tom Robinson’s struggle for survival. Society set their view of Tom before Mr. Robinson said a word, simply because of his race. Atticus in his closing statement towards the jury explains why Tom Robinson has done nothing by using society’s incorrect view of black’s to his advantage, “Which, gentlemen, we know is in itself a lie as black as Tom Robinson’s skin, a lie I do not have to point out to you. You know the truth, and the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women-black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. There is not a person in this courtroom who has never told a lie, who has never looked upon a woman without desire” (273). Both the justice system and society has accepted racism as normal because of how the slow separation between races slowly made a way to the minds of the highest class. Although government officials and the justice system have been thought as the true power above all else, both officials and the justice system are human beings, and receive the common social perception of humanity just as fast as common society. The concept of the higher power being just as stereotypical and divided based on gender and race as society leads to corruption and unfair justice. This results in people with white skin to be able to exploit the ethnicity of black people. Atticus compares Tom Robinson’s skin to a “black lie”, which symbolizes how the inaccurate view of skin color changing the personality and morals of a human being proves a useless statement and Atticus views skin color as a lie. Atticus goes out of his way to explain that absolutely everybody lies and show qualities of immoral behavior. Atticus explains that although society is expected to be truthful, human race in general can not follow rules strictly. How Atticus says that no one in the courtroom has not looked up to a woman without desire implies that all of the people are male, which makes it easier for Atticus to address his crowd and explain and justify his argument. Atticus tries to break the barrier between White and Black skin, but unfortunately fails because of Tom Robinson’s death sentence. After the trial, Atticus addresses and explains to Jem why Tom Robinson was killed, “There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads-they couldn’t be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life” (295). Atticus acknowledges how law does not separate from the prejudices of society, and often supports racism by giving out inaccurate decisions based on skin color. Tom Robinson serves as a great example, because of his innocence and how the person accusing him was white. Although Mayella identifies as a woman, her skin color is so strong that it overpowers the cultural hegemony against women. Simply “the white man always wins” summarizes Tom’s case. The “ugly fact of life” represents the ultimate result of modern society, where even the highest strength to a person in Maycomb, the justice system, can be filled with bias in hate. Tom Robinson has been a strong black character in Ms. Lee’s book, but many other characters also represent the brutality of racism.

Racism is shown likewise in the aggressive actions of Mrs. Dubose. Mrs. Dubose is an old lady that sits on her porch and yells out rude comments such as, “Your father is no better than the niggers and trash he works for!” (135) Mrs. Dubose’s inaccurate and mean view of “reality” hurts Scout and Jem with her comments. During the childhood of Scout, blacks were considered lower class so for Atticus to be helping someone like Tom Robinson with his case would be a “disgrace” to the color of his race according to Mrs. Dubose and most of society. Mrs. Dubose also finds a way to word her hate in different ways that seem to have similar meanings, yet have different context, “Not only a Finch waiting on tables but one on the courthouse lawing for niggers!” (135) Mrs. Dubose uses her poor vocabulary to throw insults towards Atticus and his children, using words such as “niggers” to try to put shame to Atticus. For the children, such racism is an indirect source of suffering, yet it helps them understand the reality and racism of Maycomb. Mrs. Dubose suffering serves as a distributor of hate and racist thoughts, but ultimately it is the ones who receive them that are affected.

Scout’s struggle with racism creates a contrast between light and dark. Scout’s pure innocence and light skin is shown as an opposite to the malicious racism of Maycomb. Scout is shown as a child not yet whose mind has not yet closed by the influence of racism and evil, and she continuously goes through new experiences with an open mind and a large heart. Her father, Atticus, tries to make her as open minded as possible, “‘Atticus,’ I said one evening, ‘what exactly is a nigger-lover?’... ‘Scout,’ said Atticus, ‘nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don’t mean anything-like snot-nose. It’s hard to explain-ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s favoring Negroes over and above themselves. It’s slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody’” (144). Atticus’ ability to give Scout an open mind proves to help her throughout the story as she encounters more racism. Atticus does not tell her that racism is bad, but instead simply explains why people use such terms. His ability to be open-minded even to opinions against human rights allows him to build up respect, and continuously put in Scout’s head his own ideas. Scout’s open mind delineates the effect of racism on people, and Scout’s innocent, open-minded viewpoint on racism. Jem and Scout often discuss and try to understand how society works and breaks up, leading to childish yet serious discussions on how racism works in Maycomb, “(Jem) Around here once you have a drop of Negro blood, that makes you all black” (216). At the end of a discussion of how society divides people based on race, Jem explains how just drop of black blood can overwhelm gallons of white blood. The analogy and symbolism in human blood symbolizes how strong the racism is in Maycomb, and how it can be spread from generation to generation through blood. People in Maycomb do not take superiority because of white blood, they do so because of the lack of black blood. The racism shown through Scout’s interactions with Jem and Atticus to help her battle the evil racism that she encounters.

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Throughout To Kill a Mockingbird, Racism is often viewed as a dark hate in Maycomb’s society. Ms. Lee struggles with the effect of racism through the use of different characters in Maycomb with the use of the three unique characters Tom Robinson, Calpurnia, and Scout. Racism and the black skin color spread throughout Maycomb like a disease. For blacks, Racism was a disease that made whites go insane, and for whites black skin color was just like rabies. Racism has been seen not only in Maycomb and books of fiction, but also in modern times. Yet in Maycomb, Racism changes people and their experiences, and will continue to do so as long as people are not all the same, both in diseases such as rabies and skin color.

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Tom Robinson’s Characters and the Depiction of Racism Influence. (2019, January 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 29, 2024, from
“Tom Robinson’s Characters and the Depiction of Racism Influence.” GradesFixer, 28 Jan. 2019,
Tom Robinson’s Characters and the Depiction of Racism Influence. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Feb. 2024].
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