Schools tend to have cliques, small groups of narrow-minded people who criticize others. These teens in cliques parallel adults in today’s society. They prey on those who believe in different things, come from different backgrounds, and have different morals and values. In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, three characters, Boo Radley, Tom Robinson, and Atticus Finch, all resemble mockingbirds, in that people persecute them for no reason.
The people of Maycomb County victimize the innocent Boo Radley. His mysterious life interests the Finch children, Jem and Scout, and their friend Dill. They imagine Boo as a drooling, savage, six-and-a-half-foot beast with a long jagged scar on his face, yellow teeth, and bulging eyes. They suspect that he peers into people’s windows at night to stalk them and he may try to kill them. The real Boo, however, possesses a kind soul and a gentle heart. He manages to find ways to communicate in a positive and playful way with Jem, Scout, and Dill, but everyone suspects Boo of enigmatic crimes when “once the town was terrorized and…people still looked to the Radley Place, unwilling to discard their initial suspicions” (9). The townspeople do not give Boo a chance; they rather make rash conclusions. His seclusion from the town instantly opens him up to ridicule and gossip. Scout learns to judge him and others by their actions, not by the town gossip.
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Tom Robinson, a Negro, represents another mockingbird. He lives a life of simplicity beyond the town dump and attends the same church as the Finch family cook, Calpurnia. Tom regularly assists people in need, especially Mayella Ewell, but he finds himself punished for it. Mayella, a white woman, accuses Tom of rape and abuse, and her father Bob takes this matter to court and uses subterfuge in his testimony. During the trial Link Deas, Tom’s former employer, announces, “That boy worked for me eight years an’ I ain’t had a speck o’ trouble outta him” (195). Link tries to stand up for Tom because he instinctively knows Tom would never rape anyone, especially a white woman. Because of Link’s experience with Tom, he steadfastly believes in Tom’s innocence. However, the prejudice that exists in Maycomb influences the jury to convict Tom of rape, leaving him and his attorney Atticus Finch disappointed but not surprised.
Atticus, a very respected lawyer, defends Tom and subsequently takes criticism for it. A man of nearly fifty, he tries to instil good values in his children while treating them like adults. He always fights for justice, even if it means defending a black man in a segregated white-black society. When Scout asks Atticus the reason for his defending Tom, Atticus replies, “If I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again” (75). Atticus, unlike many others, notices the Negroes’ dignity and will not stop at anything to prove their equality in society. The morale of the Negroes’ falls more and more because of the trial, and they need Atticus to bring up their spirits. This disturbs the people of Maycomb who cannot see past skin colour, and they react by taunting his family. They mock and disrespect Atticus because they lack his courage.
The townspeople treat Boo, Tom, and Atticus unjustly. The simple reason that they have diverse personalities does not mean they must endure persecution by others. Soap and water cannot easily wash away the prejudice that exists in Maycomb, but the people must erase the idea of it all from their minds and hearts. The mockingbird never does anything to harm anyone; therefore it should be left in peace.
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