Characters Portrayed In To Kill A Mockingbird

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How are African American Characters portrayed in:
To Kill A Mockingbird?

DATE: November 2014


This essay explores the portrayal of African American’s in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. It investigates the depiction of African Americans through the lens of different characters. It is clear that Lee condemns the behavior of white people in the South towards the blacks and urges the reader to look at the plight of the blacks through her two main characters, Scout and Atticus Finch.

The character of Scout Finch is rather autobiographical giving us vision into Lee’s own childhood and upbringing. Lee
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We see clearly that white people in Maycomb have all the power. Even white trash like Bob Ewell is given the power to accuse an innocent black man simply because of the power the color of his skin has. Even though African Americans like Tom Robinson have better qualities as human beings than the Ewells they are under them because of the social inequality in Maycomb. These social divisions are destructive and irrational as it gives power to people like Bob Ewell to persecute Tom Robinson. Tom Robinson is not guilty but suffers death only because of the color of his skin and the racial segregation of the time. "The only thing we 've got is a black man 's word against the Ewells '. The evidence boils down to you-did-I-didn 't. The jury couldn 't possibly be expected to take Tom Robinson 's word…show more content…
At a time when racism and prejudice were at their worst in the Southern United States, Lee uses a child’s voice in an attempt to alleviate the emotional impact of the tense situation and bring innocence and neutrality to the story. Lee’s use of Scouts voice may be designed to portray an unprejudiced focus for the story but proficiently uses different characters to expose various elements of racism and prejudice. Taking advantage of the natural curiosity and naivety of a child’s voice Lee addresses many wrongs and rights of human behavior through the characters and their personal challenges to overcome racism. We also see the character of Scout grow through the book and especially through the Tom Robinson trial. We see this when Tom Robinson is killed, “Atticus had used every tool available to free men 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.” We see Scout’s character come of age from a naïve innocent narrator to a mature and courageous young woman who now understands why Atticus does not want her to get infected by the “Maycomb disease.” Through this first person narrative Lee hoped to discreetly portray African American characters in an expressive yet childlike, unbiased manner to leave the reader free to connect emotionally with the dilemma and decide for themself about the racial prejudices and the real historic conflicts
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