The portrayal of race in “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a classic novel that deals with a range of themes, including racism and prejudice. The novel is set in the Deep South during the 1930s and tells the story of a young girl named Scout Finch and her experiences growing up in a racially divided society. Through a range of artistic details and images, Lee portrays the complex and often troubling reality of race relations in the South.
One of the most striking elements of the novel is Lee's portrayal of the African American characters. The main African American character, Tom Robinson, is accused of raping a white woman and is put on trial. The trial exposes the deep-seated racism and prejudice that exists within the white community and highlights the injustice that African Americans face on a daily basis. Despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence, Tom is found guilty, and his fate is sealed by the racial bias of the jury.
Throughout the novel, Lee uses a range of artistic details and images to highlight the complexity of race relations in the South. One of the most powerful images is the mockingbird, which is a symbol of innocence and purity. The title of the novel itself is a reference to this image, and it underscores the importance of protecting those who are vulnerable and defenseless. This image is particularly poignant in the context of race relations, as African Americans are often seen as a vulnerable and oppressed group.
Another powerful image in the novel is the knothole in the tree outside the Radley house. This knothole is a symbol of the connection between Scout, Jem, and Boo Radley, and it highlights the importance of looking beyond racial and social barriers. The fact that the tree is later filled with cement by Nathan Radley represents the destruction of this connection and the perpetuation of racial division and prejudice.
Lee's portrayal of the white characters in the novel is equally complex. The novel's protagonist, Scout Finch, is a young white girl who is initially unaware of the racial prejudice that exists within her community. As the novel progresses, however, she becomes increasingly aware of the racial divide and the injustices that African Americans face. Her father, Atticus Finch, is a white lawyer who defends Tom Robinson and represents the moral conscience of the novel. Atticus represents a beacon of hope in a world of racial prejudice and injustice.
However, the novel also portrays the deeply ingrained racism of many of the white characters, including Bob Ewell, who falsely accuses Tom Robinson of rape, and the members of the jury who find Tom guilty despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. These characters represent the ugly side of human nature and underscore the difficulties of overcoming racial prejudice and discrimination.
In conclusion, Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a powerful exploration of the theme of race in the Deep South. Through a range of artistic details and images, Lee portrays the complex and often troubling reality of race relations in the South. Her portrayal of both African American and white characters highlights the complexity of the issue and the difficulty of overcoming racial prejudice and discrimination. "To Kill a Mockingbird" remains a timeless classic that continues to resonate with readers today and serves as a reminder of the importance of confronting and addressing issues of racism and prejudice.