Discuss the prejudice that Tom Robinson, Boo Radley, and Dolphus Raymond face in To Kill a Mockingbird. Including quotes would be helpful.
Tom Robinson faces racial prejudice and becomes a victim of racial injustice throughout the novel. Tom is wrongfully accused of assaulting and raping Mayella Ewell and is forced to testify in front of a prejudiced jury. Racial prejudice is evident during Tom's testimony as the prosecutor, Mr. Gilmer, continually disrespects Tom by referring to him as "boy" and sneering at him during his cross-examination. Despite the lack of evidence and conflicting testimonies, Tom Robinson is found guilty simply because he is a black man. Following Tom's conviction, Scout elaborates on the racial injustice by saying,
"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" (Lee, 245).
Boo Radley is another character who suffers from prejudice throughout the novel. Despite being a kind, compassionate man, Boo Radley becomes the topic of negative rumors because he lives a reclusive life, which gives him a bad reputation among the children and certain citizens of Maycomb. At the beginning of the novel, Scout describes the prejudice surrounding Boo by saying,
"People said he went out at night when the moon was down, and peeped in windows. When people’s azaleas froze in a cold snap, it was because he had breathed on them. Any stealthy small crimes committed in Maycomb were his work" (Lee. 9).
Dolphus Raymond is another character who suffers from the community's prejudice. Dolphus lives as an outcast in Maycomb because he has several bi-racial children and chooses to have relations with black people, which is a taboo among the racist citizens of the community. In chapter 20, Scout refers to Dolphus as an "evil" man before he gives Dill a drink of Coca-Cola. Dolphus then explains why he feigns alcoholism by telling the children,
"I try to give ‘em a reason, you see. It helps folks if they can latch onto a reason. When I come to town, which is seldom, if I weave a little and drink out of this sack, folks can say Dolphus Raymond’s in the clutches of whiskey—that’s why he won’t change his ways. He can’t help himself, that’s why he lives the way he does" (Lee, 204).
These three characters from To Kill a Mockingbird face different kinds of prejudicial treatment during the novel. As a Negro, Tom Robinson faced the racial prejudice that many blacks endured during the 1930s in the Deep South. Alabama, like many Southern states, had laws regarding the segregation of blacks and whites; socializing between the races in public places was illegal in many areas. Yet Tom, being the friendly man that he was, sympathized with Mayella, and he attempted to help her without realizing he was being lured into the Ewell house for other reasons. He was accused of raping Mayella; such a charge would not have occurred if their colors had been reversed. He was found guilty by an all-white jury, all of whom were apparently biased against the color of Tom's skin. As Atticus probably already knew, Tom was guilty the second he stepped into the Ewell household.
Dolphus Raymond also faced the wrath of much of Maycomb's white population, but not because he was black: A wealthy white man, Raymond lived with his Negro mistress--a sin almost as serious as the accusations against Tom. Mixing of the races was considered a cardinal sin in the Deep South, and Raymond was castigated by most of white Maycomb. Because of this personal decision, many people also considered him mentally unstable, and many of Raymond's actions (specifically weaving down the sidewalks with a bottle in a paper bag) seemed to support this conclusion.
Boo Radley, like Raymond, was considered mentally unstable, and rumors that had followed him for more than a decade had been accepted by the people of Maycomb as fact. Although he was never seen, he was blamed for most of the unexplainable crimes in the town, and many children avoided walking by the Radley house, even though it was located next to the school. Like the unfounded accusations against both Tom Robinson and Dolphus Raymond, the ones against Boo were untrue, and all three men were merely trying to live their lives in the manner they wished.