Prejudice (n)- an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason. According to the dictionary, prejudice is merely a feeling or opinion. Such a loaded term like prejudice, carrying such a meaningless definition, sparks the thought if the dictionary is really stating the true and correct definition of prejudice. After reading To Kill A Mockingbird, the author, Harper Lee, shows that prejudice, is not a simple opinion or pre-judgment of someone, but something that could manipulate someone??™s decision in such a way as to make them behave and say completely irrational things. Lee develops the characters and situations that affect prejudice to demonstrate to the reader the true meaning of prejudice.
Prejudice is an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought or reason, that then causes the person to behave irrationally towards others. To Kill A Mockingbird offers several examples of how prejudice causes people to behave irrationally toward others. Aunt Alexandra is very proper and views herself as morally correct. Yet she is quick to point out how indigenous people like her are superior to those she views as beneath her. ???She never let a chance escape her to point out the shortcomings of other tribal groups to the greater glory of our own.??? (129) Not only does Scout, but Jem too realize that in Aunt Alexandra??™s view, people of different socialPchenitchnikova2classes should not mix together. When Scout learns that a relative of the Cunningham??™s was on the jury and was in favor of acquitting Tom Robinson, she announces that she will invite Walter Cunningham over for dinner.
Aunt Alexandra firmly vetoes that idea, ???Because he is trash, that??™s why you can??™t play with him.??? (225). In Alexandra??™s irrational view of the world, no matter how good a person is, if they??™re not from the right social group, they are not worthy of friendship. At the bottom of the social scale, prejudice leads to behavior that is more destructive than just avoiding contact. Mayella Ewell projects her own desire on to Tom Robinson and makes up a story about being raped by him.
Her story is readily accepted by most people in Maycomb ??“ despite the fact that her description of what she claims happened is not believable because Tom Robinson is crippled. Her story is accepted as truth simply because she is white and he is black. Mayella??™s crazy lie sets in motion a series of events that leads to Tom??™s death. Scout??™s observations about her teacher Miss Gates provide another example of irrational behavior motivated by prejudice.
In class there is a discussion about what Hitler is doing to the Jews in Europe. Scout is disturbed by the contradiction she sees in Miss Gates??™ indignation about what a bad man Hitler is and her derogatory comments about blacks in her own community. ???I heard her say it??™s time somebody taught them a lesson??¦.Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad and then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home??? (247) Miss Gates seems to have a double standard: it??™s not okay for Hitler to mistreat Jews, but it??™s okay for her to mistreat black people.
Pchenitchnikova3 The prejudiced attitudes and behavior of the people of Maycomb reinforce the divisive social hierarchy. Scout??™s schoolmates treat her like an outcast because of herfather??™s role in defending Tom Robinson. Cecil Jacobs announces to everyone in the schoolyard that Atticus defends niggers. Even her cousin Francis provokes Scout by calling Atticus a ???nigger lover??? and saying that Atticus is ruining the family because he is defending Tom Robinson.
The message in these comments is that Atticus should stick to his own kind. Despite his vigorous defense of Tom, the jury returns a guilty verdict. Jem and Scout are surprised and disappointed that Atticus calmly accepts the outcome. ???There??™s something in our world that makes men lose their heads ??“ they couldn??™t be fair if they tried.
In our courts, when it??™s a white man??™s word against a black man??™s, the white man always wins. They??™re ugly, but those are the facts of life.??? (220) The general feeling among the citizens of Maycomb was that Tom got what he deserved. ???To Maycomb, Tom??™s death was typical. Typical of a nigger to cut and run??¦.Atticus had used every tool available 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.??? (241).
In the end, nothing has changed in the way that Maycomb society operates. When people put labels on each other, and just assume things about a certain group of people, they are being prejudice, and when they are allowing these assumptions to trigger irrational behaviors, they are letting their prejudice thoughts mix in with their actions. For example, ??? ???Mr. Radley said that he shot at a Negro in the collard patch,??™ Miss Maudie replied. ???When it really was a white person but he thought that white peoplePchenitchnikova4wouldn??™t do that.??™ ??? This quote shows that Mr. Radley just assumed that only negro??™s would be sneaking around in his collard patch, and that the white, so called ???high class???, population of Maycomb, would never ever do such a thing.
This assumption made him shoot at someone that he thought was Negro, but turned out to be white. Another prejudice way the citizens of Maycomb think about others is when they are asked to describe Boo Radley. According to Jem, ??? ???Boo was about six-and-a half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that??™s why his hands were bloodstained- if you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off.
There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time.??™??? (13) Jem had never seen Boo Radley, and most of the adults hadn??™t seen Boo in almost fifteen years, but somehow, people allow their prejudice mind-sets to make act irrationally towards Boo Radley by assuming that he looks like a complete monster. The town??™s prejudice thoughts towards Boo Radley cause all of the children to kept their distance and be immensely frightened by him and his ominous house. Overall, because of the prejudice thoughts that almost all people in Maycomb posses towards Boo Radley, they leave Boo in complete exile, assuming he is as scary as he is described to be, but never really finding out for themselves.
Prejudice is liable for causing people to act irrational, teaches Harper Lee in the book To Kill a Mockingbird. In spite of the fact that some people do not continuously feel the intense effects of it, prejudice can be quite injurious to others psychologically andPchenitchnikova5in the flesh. There is always some diminutive characteristic that can trigger this bad aroma to arise, but the most excellent way to wipe the floor with it, is to pay no attention to it. Prejudice has been around since the earliest men roamed the earth and will continue to loom overhead and underfoot in the future.