To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Citical Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Literature review
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1173 Words
Date:  2022-02-10


Discrimination based on color has been a critical issue in America for a long time, whereby the African-American people have not been getting justice from the whites. The book "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee addresses racial injustice and destruction of the innocence in the American culture. It also focuses on gender roles, compassion, courage, and social class issues. The book contains two sections, and in the first part, Lee shows the feeling of lack of safety, and discomfort of children in their neighbourhood. The second part shows how a black man, Tom Robinson, is falsely charged with beating and raping Mayella Ewell (Nair and English, 351). Racial injustice and destruction of the innocence have reigned in the old town of Maycomb, Alabama, Maycomb County's seat. This paper will examine how racial prejudice and the destruction of innocence have been portrayed in the entire Lee's novel.

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In the first half of the novel, destruction of the innocence unfolds when Jem and Scout, alongside Dill, their childhood champion, are being fascinated by Boo Radley, whom they refer to as their mysterious neighbour. The neighbourhood children feed each other with rumours of imaginations about Boo's appearance which makes him remain indoors for long. The youngsters build an old stereotype of Boo, whereby they view him as an ugly and huge monster who remains hidden in his "castle" (Johnson, 78). They tend to believe that he eats squirrels, has sports in a jagged car, and is rotten, resulting to the yellowing of his ugly teeth and bulging eyes. The youngsters try to lure him from his shuttered house to breach the boundaries of his life. During their attempt to seduce him, they come to discover his real character and personality as a shy man who tries to reach out to kids in several ways. He tries to leave small gifts under a tree outside the place of Radley and makes affection gestures to kids, but according to them, he appears not to be a person. Although they try to lure him and view him as not being a person, the author shows that he saves their lives when Ewell attacks them during their walk home from school. Boo attacks Ewell with a knife, which led to his death. Thus it is clear that the children were destroying the innocence of Boo while he was a good person.

The racial injustice manifests in the entire plot of the last part of the novel. In this case, Tom Robinson, a black man who is falsely accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell. Atticus Finch, a widowed middle-aged lawyer, is appointed by Judge Taylor to defend Tom and makes a strong defence of Tom within the courtroom. This defence is so substantial that no any reasonable person can still believe that Tom is guilty of the rape crime (Summaries,132). It is clear that Robinson did not rape the white woman, but the white people still hold to their assumptions that he raped her.

Nevertheless, the Jury takes a step ahead to convict Tom basing on his race. It is noticeable that the conviction is carried out of racial injustice and not according to the truth presented in the courtroom. It was against the sense of justice and fidelity to the rule of law. Therefore, the court convicts and imprisons Tom for a crime he did not commit. Due to his reality that he was innocent, he tries to escape the prison, and the police kill him. He was killed with excessive violence, whereby the police shot him seventeen times. This action shows that there is racial discrimination of the 'niggers' by the white people.

Furthermore, there is a display of racial discrimination when the people in the town assert antagonism and social pressure to Atticus for defending a black man. This tension was as a result of his decision to represent a black man, charged with raping of a white woman. According to them, Atticus, as a white man, should have stood with the white woman and not the black people. Notably, the white people in this "old town" viewed black people as desperate people with no future and full of crime actions desires (Johnson, 67). For that reason, they take it as a betrayal of their color for their fellow white person to defend a black person. Due to his action of defending a black man, the people in his town accuse him of being a "nigger lover," which results in hatred in the city. At some point, Atticus faces down a lynch mob with their desires to have justice in their own hands. This case clearly shows that white people discriminated against black people, and they did not want them to be supported or granted justice.

Also, the revelation of destruction of innocence ensues when his fellow white people hate Atticus for standing with the truth and defending an innocent man. Lee shows how one faces violent antagonism whenever he tries to stand up for justice and challenge the system of society. The novels show how one may threaten the safety of his family and even put his life in danger by trying to stand up for the oppressed. At some point, although Atticus loses Tom's case, he humiliates Bob Ewell, the person who accused Tom and therefore becoming a strong enemy in the town. Later, the enmity puts his children, Scout, and Jem, at risk in terms of their safety. This case is revealed when Ewell attacks Scout and Jem as they walk towards their home from school (Nair and English, 346). The attack leaves Jem with a broken arm, although Boo later saves them. In this book, the people in the town labels Atticus as a member of the oppressed group (black people) because he tried to stop racism. Therefore, the act of hating and threatening Atticus for standing up for truth shows there is the destruction of innocence in American society.


Eventually, throughout both sections, Lee shows clearly other divisions within the society and how the barriers are susceptible and their outcomes. For instance, the Atticus fights for the innocence of the Tom but in return, finds himself in danger as well as his children. It has also revealed that American society contains racism and destroys the innocents who fight for justice by charging Tom falsely due to his colour, as cited in Nair, and English (349). Lee sets her book in a very isolated locale, Maycomb, during the period when her racial crossing notions and boundaries of society do not always seem imminently attainable. Thus, the novel has highly portrayed how racial injustices and destruction of innocence has been prevalent in the American culture.

Works Cited

Johnson, Ashleigh. "Racism in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird." Literary Cultures 2.1 (2019).

Nair, Sneha J., and B. A. English. "An Analysis of Social Institutions in Shaping the Worldview of Characters in Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD." (2017). 343-352

Summaries, Bright. To Kill a Mockingbird by Nell Harper Lee (Book Analysis): Detailed Summary, Analysis, and Reading Guide. BrightSummaries. Com, 2015.

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Citical Essay Sample. (2022, Feb 10). Retrieved from

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