How does Harper Lee present issues about injustice in To Kill a Mockingbird as a whole?  Please talk about the ways in which the issues are shown and the methods used to show these issues at work....

How does Harper Lee present issues about injustice in To Kill a Mockingbird as a whole?

 

Please talk about the ways in which the issues are shown and the methods used to show these issues at work. Thanks!

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Harper Lee chooses not to assault the reader with preachiness and obvious sermonizing concerning the many injustices found in To Kill a Mockingbird. Instead she takes a more subtle approach, delivering her messages primarily through the innocent voice of Scout, who often does not realize the importance of the revelations she witnesses. Scout does not seem to understand how Maycomb's black citizens are discriminated against: She routinely uses the "N" word until Atticus scolds her for its "common" usage. She doesn't understand what the word "rape" means, and she has to have Atticus explain what a "nigger-lover" is. When Dill becomes sickened by Mr. Gilmer's repeated reference to Tom as "boy," Scout explains that

     "Well, Dill, after all he's just a Negro."

Though Scout has not learned these attitudes from Atticus--she has picked them up from neighborhood gossip and from her classmates at school--she recognizes that Maycomb's black citizens are on the bottom of the local social ladder, but she nevertheless treats them with respect. Calpurnia is like a member of the family, and Scout obviously enjoys the company of the black minister, Reverend Sykes. Scout comes to see that Tom is innocent through the facts presented, and she understands that Tom's crippled left arm could not have possibly allowed him to commit the crimes of which he is accused. As Scout explains to Jem, who believes that there are four distinct types of people in Maycomb,

"Naw, Jem, I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks."

Scout's naive manner has a way of conveying Lee's messages. She sees past Alexandra's beliefs in heredity and Family Streaks, recognizing that just because Walter Cunningham Jr. is poor does not mean he's "trash." She understands the symbolic point Mr. Underwood is trying to make about Tom in his editorial about the "senseless slaughter of songbirds." Lee discloses the hypocrisy of many of the women in Maycomb by allowing Scout to endure their jokes and overhear their insulting remarks about Negroes--and even Atticus--at the Missionary Circle meeting. The author explores gender inequity when Scout innocently discovers from Atticus that Miss Maudie is not allowed to serve on a jury because she is a woman. Lee patiently allows Scout to mature to the point where she is able to see that Boo Radley's acts of kindness are a way of trying to gain her friendship: He is not a "ghoul," but, instead,

Boo was our neighbor... But neighbors give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad.

And, at the end of the story, Lee pushes home another point about identity and outward appearances through the sleepy-eyed Scout when she discovers that Stoner's Boy (a character in the novel that Atticus is reading to her)--like Boo--

"... was real nice."
     "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them."

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