Morality Essay - the Review of “To Kill A Mockingbird”
Actions? The things that we do day in and day out. Are we doing the right thing or the wrong thing? How do we differentiate between the two? All of these questions fall under the category of morality. In “To Kill A Mockingbird” these are some of the questions that arise from the lessons Atticus teaches to his kids. Through the prejudice that blacks faced due to race and class distinctions and by how the legal system worked against African Americans this novel conveys the key message that all people should respect and treat each other with kindness. In this morality essay I will try to answer these questions through reviewing the following book.
It all takes place in Maycomb, Alabama during 1933-1935 where we have the Great Depression and also during the Jim Crow era. This time period clearly highlighted how “There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with…” meaning that they were poor. This novel starts off with more historical data mentioning how “it really began with Jackson” referring to President Andrew Jackson advocating for owning slaves (although other presidents prior to him also had slaves) and therefore racial tensions and mistreatment towards Blacks began to be noticeable and widespread. It also mentions how life over there is and the attitudes “ Maycomb is an old town [...] Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps…”. This shows how history, gender norms, and class distinctions played a huge part on how someone lives today and how one's surroundings and living conditions mold attitudes.
In the first part of the story it talks about Atticus Finch (the dad) is a role model for his children (Scout and Jem) by being there for them when they needed as well as educating them about what’s right and what’s wrong with the help of Calpurnia (the maid). Many of their lessons are learned through interaction with classmates, friends, the adults who they come in contact with in the neighborhood, and from what’s taught in school. All of Atticus's lessons are through examples, verbal statements, and his own knowledge and experience making him a very wise person. Throughout the story both Atticus’ kids and their friend Dill are being nosey, wanting to know about other people’s lives, and Atticus chastises them for that. He also emphasizes the importance of honesty and respect especially for Mrs. Dubois which the kids don’t happen to likeThe kids’ curiosity is what motivates them to go on fun adventures which sometimes gets them in trouble. For example they want to see Boo Radley come out of his house. He lived in a house known as “The Radley Place” and “it was inhabited by an unknown entity the mere description of whom was enough to make us behave for days on end…”. People would make rumors about the Radleys and their home which scared people away from the area thus making them seem like a mystery.
For the second part of the novel both Scout and Jem come to a strong understanding of moral responsibility and how to apply it to their own lives. Scout experiences racism for the first time by being called the “n” word. That’s when she realizes that Maycomb is a segregated place and that racism exists. Now this is where Tom Robinson comes up, he’s an African American on trial accused of raping Mayella Ewell. In this time period many African Americans get falsely accused of rape and get convicted even if they didn’t commit the crime. Atticus decides to serve as Robinson’s defense lawyer and it looked like a joke for him to represent a Black. Atticus has been ; however, through prejudice that existed for decades prior to the offense, Robinson receives a guilty verdict. Mayella is a victim of incest, she searches for company by attempting to seduce a black man. Mayella “explains” her situation so she faces zero embarrassment because she has broken a sacred code of not dealing with those of an opposite race. Scout points to the character of the Ewell family in chapter twelve with a surprise recognition of the plaintiff in the matter. Later Scout questioned Calpurnia, the housekeeper, on the matter of the rape and inquires whether the Ewells are the ones who attend school only one day a year. Upon her discovery they are the same, she comments that even Atticus calls them “absolute trash”. Mayella Ewell has a secret and seeks to hide her embarrassment from breaking a sacred code of conduct. This shows how unfair the criminal justice system was against Blacks and how racial tensions pre-Civil Rights Movement negatively affected them.
After all of these impactful events both Scout and Jem realize that not everyone was raised with the same values that Atticus had taught them. They see how Maycomb County and its average citizen represent the white South, while Atticus represents Lee’s message that in order to be morally correct one must work to improve the moral standards by which they live.
After reading this novel and noticing through historical context, parental instruction and character development how important the role of morality plays in people’s lives. As individuals one must learn to get to know people, sit down and have a conversation with them. It can be surprising what you can learn from others just like when Atticus told his children “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - “ and how Scout mentioned that most people are “real nice [...] once you finally see them”. It seemed that because of Atticus being involved in his children's education we can infer that he held strong family values and was a positive influence and a key factor in the growth and learning of his kids.
In conclusion to this essay about morality it is clear that the novel gives everyone an important life lesson which is that good moral values can be taught from an earlier age in order to have better conscience on what they’re doing. In order to be able to live peacefully in this world one must be respectful to everyone at all times regardless of socioeconomic status or race. Or as the golden rule states: “Treat others the way you want to be treated”.
- Lee, Harper. “To Kill A Mockingbird.” J.B Lippincott Company, 1960.