‘Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself’. This statement made by Scout at the beginning of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird shows that Maycomb is a town in which the fear of change is rife. Lee’s choice of Maycomb as a setting, developed through narrative point of view and characterisation was vital to the text as it helped to develop the theme of prejudice and the consequences which result from the fixed attitudes of an insular town.
One of the ways in which Lee presents Maycomb is through the fluctuating narrative point of view between he mature adult Scout and the naive child narrator. The narration of Scout as an adult is objective and is suggestive of the opinions of the people who live in Maycomb. Maycomb is described as ‘an old town’ and a ‘tired old town’ at that, suggesting that the people who live there are stuck in their ways, do not want to change and are even afraid of what change may do to their insular society.
The innocent child’s voice adds to this view of Maycomb, by displaying that the citizens who live there are unaware of the outside world and are suck in their daily routines, ‘Routine contentment was improving our tree house’. This narration shows how very easy it was for Maycomb citizens to uphold their ingrained prejudice as they are living in a place in which change and acceptance of other people’s lifestyles is not valued. Another way in which Lee presents Maycomb as an insular society in which prejudice prospers is through characterisation.
Scout, an intelligent and kind little girl whose father, Aticus is considered to be the moral backbone of the novel, at the tender age of six, already displays prejudice when she laughs at Walter Cunningham for ‘pouring syrup over his vegetables’. This shows that the attitudes in Maycomb are so entrenched that just living their makes one prejudiced. Another way Lee emphasizes this fact is through Dill, a young boy who comes to Maycomb forth summer. As an outsider, Dill doesn’t hold the same values as the citizens of Maycomb and is used by contrast to show the prejudice which exists their, ‘Dill was off again.
Beautiful things floated round in his dreamy head. ’ The choice of a small insular town in which to set a novel about racial prejudice helped Lee to develop the idea that ‘Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced. ’ At first, the prejudices displayed by the citizens of Maycomb seem benign and irrelevant. However, in this small community these prejudices soon culminate into something much more serious: racial prejudice. This prejudice is displayed in the trail of Tom Robinson in which the defence lawyer refers to Tom as ‘boy’, while politely questioning white witnesses.
This causes Dill to start crying at the unfairness and injustice that is created by racism saying, ‘it was just him I couldn’t stand’. Maycomb also serves in showing how the persecution of innocent ‘mockingbirds’ can result from racial prejudice. Maycomb’s highly defined social class system, in which blacks are considered to be lesser equals, is the reason for the persecution of Tom Robinson. Robinson’s persecution came not only because he was black, but because he broke one of Maycomb’s social mores by feeling sorry for and helping Mayella Ewell – ‘You felt sorry for her?
You felt sorry’. The notion that a black could be in a position to feel sympathy for a white was abhorrent for Maycomb’s citizens and this is why they allowed and indeed endorsed the persecution of an innocent man. Tom Robinson’s death highlights the failings of this insular society as it showed that in such a society there is no courage for change even when it is obvious that change is necessary. By choosing Maycomb in which to set To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee was able to clearly develop the idea of prejudice and the negative effects that arise from it.
This causes us as readers to think about the society that Maycomb’s citizens live in and consider whether it would be as easy for such prejudice to be instilled in our communities. As a result of New Zealand’s multicultural society it is very unlikely that such a miscarriage of justice would occur here because as a nation we have come to accept other culture and points of view. However, prejudice against other is a part of human nature and it is necessary that we remember that when it comes down to it ‘there’s’ just one kind of folks. Folks. ’
Cite this Settings in to Kill a Mockingbird Essay
Settings in to Kill a Mockingbird Essay. (2016, Dec 24). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/settings-in-to-kill-a-mockingbird/