Role Of Conflict In To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

Unfairness, as a dictionary definition, is a lack of equality or justice. This book is full of it, and it has major impacts on characters and themes. To Kill a Mockingbird is a book that has a young girl named Scout as the protagonist. The novel starts out as a story about how Scout’s brother Jem broke his arm, and the end is how Jem does just that.The pages in between paint a story about how children learn the harshness of the world, how innocent people are made to pay for the crimes of others, and the unfairness of the world that Scout has found herself born into. This perspective changing novel was written by Harper Lee, a woman who grew up in a small town, and uses her childhood as a basis for some aspects of her story, namely herself, the company she keeps, and the town of Maycomb. “To Kill a Mockingbird” holds exemplary examples of literary devices; namely conflict, symbolism, and theme, all of which are used to further the plot of the novel.

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In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, there are many forms of conflict that push forward the plot and have the purpose of showing the themes of the book. One type of conflict used in the book is Man vs Man conflict, or a conflict between individual people or peoples. An example of conflict in the book is what is shown between Bob Ewell, a rather dishonorable character, and Atticus, definitely one of the fairest characters in the book. Aside from being each other’s foil, these characters are also wondrous examples of the conflict type of Man vs Man. As Atticus is one who believes in fighting with words and not fists, it comes as no surprise that Atticus mostly has conflict with Bob in the court. It is shown to readers that Atticus is a man who prefers the pen over the sword when Bob spits in the fact of Atticus, and all Atticus has to say is “I really wish Bob Ewell wouldn’t chew. This shows that Atticus believes that violence is never the answer and that many conflicts should and can be resolved through compromise and diplomacy. Though it may not have been intentional Atticus shows the character of Bob, a man who is dishonest and has dishonest tendencies, during the cross examination. This conflict between Atticus and Bob show how even the fair and just can be outdone if the odds are not in the favor, furthering one of the themes of the book, that life is not always fair.

To Kill a Mockingbird also gives examples of Man vs Society, which is the conflict between an individual and a organization or social expectation that is the norm in the book. One of the most obvious examples of Man vs Society is Tom Robinson vs Society. Though it is unfair, Tom Robinson is discriminated against due to his skin color. This shines true during the trial, where even a child would be able to tell that Tom was innocent, but because Tom is black he is convicted guilty. In fact, a child can tell the difference, namely Scout, who acknowledges the fact that “Tom Robinson was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed” (244). Along with Tom facing off against society, Atticus also faces off against Society, in the way that he combats social norms in trying to defend Tom Robinson. Atticus defending Tom Robinson not only shows that he is above the sort of racism that everyone sees to behold in the town of Maycomb at this time, but it also shows that Atticus is willing to combat the social norm of the time by defending a black man. During the time of the trial, everyone in Maycomb expects Atticus to not give his all into defending Tom, but Atticus disregards this notion, as he doesn’t care about the color of Tom’s skin or what society expects him to do Atticus only cares about being fair and just. This last type of conflict is not a genre of conflict per se, but it is definitely a type of conflict that is very prevalent in To Kill a Mockingbird. The type of conflict that I am referring to is the racial conflict in the town of Maycomb.The person whose racial conflict is most prevalent in this novel is Tom’s, obviously as it is he who is targeted during the trial and he who is slurred against most. Dolphus Raymond, though white, is also discriminated against in a way, because he has married a black woman and has mixed children. The town prefers to believe the facade that he is a drunk rather than accept the fact that he just “live like I do because that’s the way I want to live” (pg 201) The town would prefer to believe that he is not in control of himself than believe that someone views black people as equals. A man in a similar predicament to Dolphus’ is Atticus. He is constantly slurred against in the book, even to his children, as he is defending Tom. Though there are fewer racial slurs used on him, he is no doubt discriminated against for his choices about the color of people’s’ skin.These conflicts are generally used to drive forward the plot in the book and to enforce the themes. The conflicts show Scout that the world is not fair, and people are often discriminated against for decidedly idiotic reasons. These conflicts also help Lee with her characterization, specifically of Jem and how his mindset changes over the course of the book based on what happens around him and how Scout does the same. There is a lot of growing up done in this novel, and it is done with the help of these conflicts.

In this book, Harper Lee uses symbolism to an extreme degree; extreme in the way that she uses it so often. In fact, Harper Lee uses symbolism with just about every character that is named in this novel. One of the main characters of this story is named Scout, and there is symbolism in this name. A scout is a person who, in the military or recon squads, goes ahead of the larger quantity of people and gathers information about the area or enemy forces. Scout shows her namesake when she does what most kids do, and asks “politically incorrect” questions that truly need asking, such as asking questions about taboo subjects during ladylike tea parties. Another character in which Lee uses symbolism through is Arthur. Arthur, otherwise known as Boo, has a name that represents a rather noble character. Arthur’s namesake is likened to King Arthur of Camelot, which come from a series of works that were written by Tennyson. It is said that King Arthur was a man of greatness, who was righteous in all he did. Arthur shows his symbolism in his heroic act of saving the children. There is no doubt that without Arthur coming to save the day, the children would have been left to a more unsavory fate. A rather significant incident that has symbolism is when Jem knocks down Mrs. Dubose’s flowers. Everyday as Jem and Scout walk by Mrs. Dubose’s house, she berates them. Jem notices the pride she takes in hew flowers, and decides to hit her where it really hurts. Jem knocks these down due to his anger at Mrs. Dubose’s racial slurs, and as punishment Jem is made to read to Mrs. Dubose everyday. However, they later grow back and Mrs. Dubose says “You’ll pull it up by the roots, won’t you?” which could be interpreted as racism. Since Jem has rather strong feelings about racism, it could be seen as the roots of the flowers being racism running deep into the “roots” of Maycomb. Racism is seen as having roots because of how it takes hold of people because of “tradition”. Even after Mrs. Dubose dies she still has something to say, and the sends a waxed flower from one of her bushes to Jem. This could be want to show that you can’t destroy racism through one small act of violence, and that in order to get rid of racism you have to deal with the root problem and act like an adult and see the significance and reasons behind actions.

While on the topic of significance, Harper Lee has made To Kill a Mockingbird not only a insightful novel, but makes if full of impactful themes. One theme that Lee suggests is that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. One character who shows how they are different from how they appear is Boo Radley. Though many say he is a bad man, he is actually a great one, who is selfless and kind. Boo puts himself in danger towards the end of the boo, when he goes to save the children from Bob Ewell. This shows his selflessness, and he also leaves gifts for the children; which portrays his kindness. Maycomb itself is also an example of how you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Though it may appear a nice, kind down, below this facade lies a rather malicious and dangerous group of opinions, ones that judge others based on race and ruin lives. Aunt Alexandra herself is a perfect example of hatred in the town of maycomb, and hidden maliciousness. Even though the Cunninghams are not black, she still discriminated against them and says that “they are trash”(pg225). Almost all of the women of Maycomb are like this, and they truly represent how you are supposed to be polite to someone’s face, but behind their back you can slur them. Both of these are meant to show Scout and Jem how looks can be deceiving, and you have to look deeper than skin to really know someone and how see their perspective.

Another theme that Lee portrays is the coexistence of good and evil. For example, one person who is a good basis for a morally righteous person is Jem. He is still innocent from his childhood, but is old enough to know the world is cruel but is kind in spite of it. Bob, however, is a great example of how characters can be evil, and show the true extent of how people can reach their potential for wickedness. This coexistence shows how the world is constantly in equilibrium, in a sense that the world is constantly fighting over what is right and just and what isn’t. It seems that in To Kill a Mockingbird, those who are racist and sometimes insensitive vastly outnumber the number of those who are fair, such as the Finch family.

Though Harper Lee is a good author, there is no doubt that there are areas she falters and excels in. Firstly, the strengths in To Kill a Mockingbird far outweigh the bad. According to the history and setting of Maycomb, Lee is quite grounded in her description for Maycomb, and is very accurate in describing how life would be back then, most probably because when she was raised during the time period that the story takes place in, and it is based on her life. Secondly, this story has a surplus of good themes that not only make the book deeper but are lessons that one can take with through life with and learn from. Lastly, Harper lee does a fantastic job of characterization in her novel. Not only does she portray characters as most likely would have been allowed at the time, but she makes them seem like people instead of novel characters. She gives the characters flaws and weaknesses, as well as strengths so that the characters come alive in a sense. She gives them all differing opinions and show how they interact. There is no doubt that Lee’s characters are one of the best parts of her writing.

Though there are fewer areas where Harper Lee does falter, they are still present. There are parts of the story where Lee occasionally drones on in what seems to be a rather pointless way where it could be replaced with more meaningful content or wiped completely. On the topic of pointless, the Lee has a roundabout way of explaining to her audience, and sometimes this can make paragraphs that seemingly have no point or that have points that could easily have been worked into a different chapter of the story and not have had one of their own. For examples, chapter 2 and 3 could be combined to make a chapter in itself, and some of each of the individual chapters could be reduced as they are both introductory chapters. While lee does have her weaknesses, she has no doubt succeeded in making a splendid novel.

Overall, the conflict in To Kill a Mockingbird is important to displaying the themes and driving forth the plot of the novel, and to helping the characterization of mainly Scout and Jem, as in helping them grow as children and people. Next, the symbolism in the story help show how the book is meant to mean something and be something deeper, and that every part of this book could have a different meaning depending on how far you think into it. The themes in To Kill a Mockingbird leave a lasting impression on the reader, and truly express how one could take away from their life experiences even when one thinks that their life experiences may have been something that you think is negative. Overall, the conflicts, themes, and symbols in To Kill a Mockingbird all further the plot in a way that creates a great story, and a gives a lasting impression to readers.

10 September 2019

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