A small essay on To Kill a Mockingbird.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” takes place in the early 30’s, during the great depression. During this time Segregation and racism was prevalent throughout the United States. Even lynching’s were still happening. Yet it was published in a much different time in 1960, when many people were trying to discourage racism. Even in this day and age there is discrimination; of many kinds women still don’t get as good salaries as men, and African Americans are still profiled. The book “To Kill a Mockingbird” was very influential at the time it was written and its main themes toward African Americans could be interpreted differently depending on the time you read it.
During the 1930s there was a lot of struggle between white and black. There were many lynchings during this time, not as many as before the great depression but still quite a few. The book very accurately depicts the setting. “There’s four kinds of folks in the world. There’s the ordinary kind like us and the neighbors, there’s the kind like the Cunningham’s out in the woods, the kind like the Ewell’s down at the dump, and the Negroes.” (Lee 227) At the time this book was set blacks were their own social class being put even below the white people living at the dump. To say that during this time would be highly frowned upon. During the thirties the If this book came out during the 30’s it would have caused a large uproar and it would have further distanced the Democratic Party. But there would be a very good positive effect to publishing the book at this time; it would expose the unjust acts that were committed towards African Americans. But during this time the book might have caused more trouble than change. It might bring to sight how African Americans were treated but during this time people were suffering from the great depression and they needed a scapegoat to carry them through it which is why racism was just as prevalent in the 30’s as 1900. “During the thirties my mother had to begin taking in washing and ironing for white people, so I began to see the white people she worked for. Then later I came to realize other differences. For example, there were no hospitals for black people. The one or two hospitals that would take black people put them in the based of course the black doctor, who had been taking care of you not be allowed to practice-to attend you in the white” (Barge) With this amount of segregation I doubt that people would have read To Kill a Mockingbird and said “Wow, what we are doing is really in humane and immoral” Most likely their reaction would be “That dirty black man got what he deserved.” If To Kill a Mockingbird was published in the 30’s it would have been ridiculed by many for a long time.
When the book was published in the 60’s it was the best time for it to be published. During the 60’s there was a lot of racial issues that were being brought up within the government, such as should blacks have the right to vote. The government was changing and there were many white people that were on the black people’s side. Such as JFK, in his message to congress on June 19th 1963 he said “There are no ‘white’ or ‘colored’ signs on the foxholes or grave yards of battles.” Which is a very simple statement with many alternative meanings, but they would all have in them that it doesn’t matter if you are black or white you should share the same rights. During the 60’s they might not have been able to relate to the book, but the book might have shown them the harsh reality of what went on in our country not too long ago. Thus giving people more motivation to put a end to segregation and racism. While they might not have been able to eliminate racism they at least could invoke laws to protect the different races from each other. Such as now in schools there are rules against harassment, and for something to be considered harassment it has to fall under one of the protected categories, one of them being race. But before these rule were in effect
What would it be like if the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” came out now? The book gives us insight on how it feels to be discriminated against. That is why this book is still relevant today. In our world there is a lot of discrimination whether it is happening subconsciously or consciously we should stop it. What if we replaced Tom Robinson with a woman or with a Mexican or with a Jewish person? Tom Robinson is a very powerful symbol and he could be replaced with basically any human being on earth and someone would be able to find a way to discriminate against him. Plus it is not like the world just stopped profiling people, there are still plenty of examples of profiling, racism, and discrimination. Such as just a few weeks ago there was a horrible shooting in Florida where a white man shot a 17 year old black kid who had no weapon and posed no threat to him, he even disregarded “…the 911 dispatcher’s instructions to wait for officers to arrive and not to interfere” (Moll er) He wasn’t even arrested when police showed up to the scene. Now this might not have been a hate crime for all I know, but it was definitely profiling. This is proof that people still see a difference between black and white.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a book that’s themes can be used throughout the generations. Stereotyping and racism is going to be around forever, because of human nature. But this book helps us see what it was like when there was segregation and it helps us to realize that racism is wrong, and that we are the ones controlling how we act. In the 60’s it helped people realize what was happening in the country. But if the book had come out in the thirties it would have been deemed bad or good depending on where you were. This all shows how “To Kill a Mockingbird” could have been interpreted differently during the time you read it. Scout learned something from her experience. Why can’t we?
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York City: Grand Central Publishing, 1960
Barge, Peacolia. “Growing Up Black in the 1930s.” Think Quest. Oracle Foundation. <http://library.think quest.org/12111/Culley.HTML>.
Moll er, Scott. “White Man Who Killed Unarmed Black Florida Teenager Yet To Be Charged.” Force-Change. Web. 20 Mar. 2012.