To Kill A Mockingbird – An Essay On Justice
In the secret courts of men’s hearts justice is a beast with no appearance. It morphs to serve a different cause, and it bites a different person each time. In the cases of Tom Robinson, Bob Ewell, and Arthur Radley in the novel “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, justice is applied differently each time. Tom Robinson doesn’t meet an equitable end, with a death sentence over his head from the start. Justice isn’t in his favor in the stained prejudiced eyes and hearts of the people of Maycomb County. Bob Ewell tries to manipulate justice his own way, since he doesn’t believe that the justice he wanted was truly met. Even after Tom Robinson’s conviction, he still sets out after the people who degraded him. Arthur Radley is discriminated against by everyone in the county of Maycomb through malicious rumours and alienation. Arthur also seeks to put his own twist on vengeance, especially in the case of Bob Ewell, where he gave him the justice he deserved. Yet took no recognition. Justice and how it ties in with prejudice is the most evident theme in many different aspects in the novel “To Kill A Mockingbird”. In the cases of Tom Robinson, Bob Ewell, and Arthur Radley, moral rightness is received, and justice is served in it’s own sense for each character in the end.
The way the court adjudicates Tom Robinson in “To Kill A Mockingbird” is wrong and unjustifiable. Everyone in Maycomb prejudices him at first, then he is wrongly sentenced, and lastly he decides to take his own chances and dies. But in the end, justice is served for Tom, only posthumously. Firstly, Tom Robinson was met with extreme prejudice by the people of Maycomb, and they suddenly assumed he was guilty.“ Until my father explained it to me later, I did not understand the subtlety of Tom’s predicament: he would not have dared strike a white woman under any circumstances and expect to live long, so he took the first opportunity to run-a sure sign of guilt.” (Lee, 260) In the prejudiced society of Maycomb County, Tom Robinson is a dead man from the moment he was accused. The town suddenly assumes that he’s guilty because of his race and social class. He doesn’t have a justifiable case in court, since from the start; a conviction so serious against a black man would go into the favor of the white man. Secondly, Tom Robinson doesn’t receive proper justice through the law when he is wrongly sentenced for a crime he did not commit. “Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men’s hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed.” (Lee, 323) Judge Taylor appoints Atticus specifically for the case, because he’s the only lawyer who could do the best with a case where the sentence is already presumably set in stone. Atticus took the case because he wanted to shed light on Tom being wrongfully convicted. Thirdly, Tom wanted to change the course of his fate. “I guess Tom was tired of white men’s chances and preferred to take his own” (Lee, 315) Tom felt the injustice of being wrongly convicted, all biased to the colour of his skin and social status. Tom knew inside that he should not be held guilty for a crime he didn’t commit. Instead of having the death sentence over his head, and waiting for a supreme court to rule out his sentence, he decided to take his fate into his own hand. He believed that a final action would be to escape from prison. He did just that, and got shot down seventeen times. Tom met an unjustifiable end. Bob Ewell targets an innocent black man to excuse himself from being degraded and taken into court. He wrongfully accuses Tom Robinson of Mayella Ewell’s damaged state, he goes after the man who wronged him, and he meets his justifiable end. Bob Ewell accuses an innocent black man to cover up his own guilt. “He stood up and pointed his finger at Tom Robinson. ‘—I seen that black nigger [sic] yonder ruttin’ on my Mayella!'” (Lee, 231) Bob Ewell accuses Tom Robinson of rape, which he did not commit, to cover up his own faults. He targets a martyr because he knows that the court will make a verdict in his favour. But really, it was Mr. Ewell who abused Mayella in the first place, because he was ashamed she was getting involved with a black man. He didn’t want their family to be looked down upon as white trash [SIC], when ironically; bringing Tom Robinson into court degraded his family further. Secondly, Bob Ewell goes after the people that defamed him in court. “Somehow I could think of nothing but Mr. Bob Ewell saying he’d get Atticus if it took him the rest of his life. Mr. Ewell almost got him, and it was the last thing he did.” (Lee, 358) In this case, Bob Ewell was ready to do whatever it took to get Atticus, because he degraded him in court by uncloaking the truth of his family. Atticus brought light to the case, and got the facts straight.
Thirdly, Bob Ewell meets his end. “Bob Ewell’s lyin‘ on the ground under that tree down yonder with a kitchen knife stuck up under his ribs. He’s dead, Mr. Finch” (Lee, 357) Bob Ewell targeted the people that wronged him for some time, especially the Finch family. One night when Jem and Scout were coming home, he attacked them. But then Arthur Radley came to the children’s rescue and ended Bob Ewell. So with that, Bob Ewell meets his end, and justice is served. Justice is not in favour of Tom Robinson, because it’s the 1930’s in Alabama. Yet justice was finally served to him posthoumosly when Bob Ewell was killed. “Let the dead Bury the dead” As said by officer Tate. Arthur (“Boo”) Radley is alienated, because of the no contact he has with the tightly knit town of Maycomb. He is prejudiced by the town of Maycomb for the tomfoolery he committed when he was young, malicious rumours and tales are conjured about him when he takes residence in the house, and is finally perceived and understood rightfully by Scout in the end. Firstly, Arthur Radley was notorious in Maycomb for his involvement in a gang in the early days. “So the boys came in front of the probate judge on charges of disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, assault, and battery, and using abusive and profane language in the presence and hearing of a female.” (Lee, 12) When Boo was young, he got involved in “the closest thing Maycomb has ever seen to a gang with the Cunningham boys. No one had the nerve to tell Mr. Radley his boy was about to no good. When he found out, he shut him up in their house forever and the rumours have been spurring ever since. Secondly, The people of Maycomb including Jem and Scout whisper rumours under their breath about Boo. “Inside the house lived a malevolent phantom. People said he existed, but Jem and I had never seen him. People said he went out at night when the moon was down, and peeped in windows. When people’s azaleas froze in a cold snap, it was because he had breathed on them. Any stealthy small crimes committed in Maycomb were his work.” (Lee, 10) The people of Maycomb and the Finch children spread rumours and tales about Arthur Radley because they had no contact with him. Without even knowing his true nature, they make a malevolent monster out of his mysterious presence inside the Radley house in Maycomb. Lastly, Scout is shown the true nature of Arthur Radley, and learns to not judge beforehand. “I never heard that it’s against the law for a citizen to do his utmost to prevent a crime from being committed, which is exactly what he did, but
maybe you’ll say it’s my duty to tell the town all about it and not hush it up. Know what’d happen then? All the ladies in Maycomb includin’ my wife’d be knocking on his door bringing angel food cakes. To my way of thinkin’, Mr. Finch, taking the one man who’s done you and this town a great service an’ draggin’ him with his shy ways into the limelight- to me, that’s a sin.” (Lee, 369-370) When Arthur Radley finishes Bob Ewell and saves Jem and Scout, the real side of Arthur Radley is unveiled. He is truly an innocent and kind man, and doesn’t deserve the infamy he gets. Scout finally learns her big lesson of stepping into one’s shoes, and when she’s on the Radley porch she saw everything from Boo’s eyes, and finally empathizes with him as a human being. Justice is served for Arthur Radley since he’s finally considered as “ a real nice person” instead of the monster that was conceived by the prejudice of the people of Maycomb.
In conclusion, “To Kill A Mockingbird” is a novel primarily set about racial inequality and how it affects justice. Tom is wrongly convicted of a crime he did commit, and he didn’t want to take white man’s chances and he ended up risking his own life. Bob Ewell puts a man’s life on the line when he accuses Tom Robinson to cover up his own faults. He seeks out revenge against everyone who degraded him, and in turn feels his final breath. Arthur Radley is treated with prejudice and injustice in Maycomb. He turns out to be an innocent man who helps put the pawn of justice on the chessboard when he ends Bob Ewell. So Justice is finally served in different senses for Tom Robinson, Bob Ewell, and Arthur Radley in the end.