Can prejudice in a community be repressed?


English Honors/Gaviati


In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, certain individuals in the community attempt to chasten prejudice by embracing the values and beliefs that differ from their own. When Atticus agrees to take a case defending a Negro he furthers the destruction of “Maycomb’s usual disease” (88). Conversely, the majority of the town’s people are annulling the bonds that connect them as a community.


By defending the Negro, Tom Robinson, Atticus takes a much-needed step towards suppressing the people of Maycomb’s prejudice and helping other individuals already against it to speak out. When Jem becomes upset over the trial at Miss Maudie’s house, she explains that “(Atticus is) the only man in these parts who can keep a jury out so long in a case like that(…)we’re making a step—it’s just a baby-step, but it’s a step” (216). Miss Maudie explains to Jem the significance of the jury being out a long time. She is telling Jem that because of his father, some individuals are taking steps towards restraining the prejudice that currently resides in Maycomb. Atticus shows courage by going against the beliefs of most Maycomb residents and defending a Negro. His courage spurs other just individuals into speaking their mind. Soon after Tom Robinson’s death, Mr. Underwood writes an editorial stating “it(‘s) a sin to kill cripples, be they standing, sitting, or escaping. Tom’s death (is similar) to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children” (241). Not only does Atticus affect the current adults of Maycomb, but he also affects the coming generation. When Scout hears her teacher, Miss Gates, talking about her dislike for Hitler and what he does, she comes home confused. Not sure who to talk to Scout goes to Jem and says “Well, coming out of the courthouse that night Miss Gates was—she was goin’ down the steps in front of us, you musta not seen her—she was talking with Miss Stephanie Crawford. I heard her say it’s time somebody taught ‘em a lesson, they were getting’ way above themselves, an’ the next thing they think they can do is marry us. Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an’ then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home—” (247). Scout demonstrates her understanding of the prejudice around her by talking to Jem about Hitler and Miss Gates. Scout dislikes the way Miss Gates talks about Hitler because she realizes that Miss Gates is a hypocrite. But most individuals that reside in the town are prejudiced and don’t see Negroes as equals.


Contrarily, the town’s people (aside from select few) exhibit the prejudice that is destroying the ties that bind them as a community. When Jem and Scout pass by Mrs. Dubose’s house, she yells to them “(Finch) in the courthouse lawing for niggers! (…) Yes indeed, what has this world come to when a Finch goes against his raising? I’ll tell you! (…) Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for!” (101-02). Mrs. Dubose being an old woman makes it evident that prejudice has been around for a long time and that it will take a significant amount of time to subdue it. Bitter old women are not the only prejudiced individuals that reside in Maycomb, there are also many members of Aunt Alexandra’s tea society that are as well. Mrs. Farrow of the tea society states “I was telling Brother Hutson the other day (…) we’re fighting a losing battle (…) it doesn’t matter to ‘em one bit. We can educate them until we’re blue in the face (…) there’s no lady safe in her bed these nights” (232). Mrs. Farrow evinces her prejudice by talking about Negroes like they are animals and inferior to her. Furthermore, the tea society exhibits prejudice by allowing the individuals there to speak about another human being in such a manner. Even family members of Atticus’ are against the case and all Negroes. Francis, Scout’s cousin, is a victim of his parents’ prejudice because he picks up their beliefs. When he is taunting Scout he calls Atticus a “nigger-lover”, and displays the affect his parents have had on him. If individuals keep passing down their ignorance from generation