How is "people and politics" explored in To Kill a Mockingbird

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Both people and politics are explored in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. In regards to the exploration of people, the novel makes poignant statements on what defines a father and a friend. Atticus Finch, the father of the protagonist Scout, defines what it means to be a good father and role model to his children. Atticus believes that a person must do what is right, even if the surrounding community disagrees. He teaches his children to love all people and give chances to others in life. Another statement the novel makes about people revolves around friendship. Scout learns what it means to "turn the other cheek" and accept others as friends, because of the lessons she learns from her father. Scout also learns not to "judge a book by its cover," so to speak. This lesson is taught through the character of Boo Radley. Boo is the neighborhood recluse. Because he is never seen, the neighborhood makes up rumors about the kind of person Boo is. Scout, over the course of the novel, learns that Boo is not what the neighborhood or community says he is. She learns that people must make up their own minds about others around them—not allow themselves to depend upon the rumors and stereotypes passed around by people who do not know the truth.

The novel also makes important statements on political ideas. The most obvious political commentary the novel makes relates to prejudice. Many of the secondary characters have an issue with another character because of his or her race or social status. These political statements are examined, for example, through the trial of Tom Robinson and dinner with Walter Cunningham. The trial illustrates the deep racist dividing lines which run through the community. Tom has been accused of rape, and Atticus represents him in the trial. Both Tom (a black man) and Atticus (a white man) are treated poorly and questioned because of their "roles" in the novel.

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Harper Lee explores the prejudiced, hypocritical culture of the Jim Crow South throughout the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout's narration provides the reader with a view into the racist community of Maycomb, Alabama, where the majority of citizens disagree with Atticus's decision to defend Tom Robinson. Despite the white citizens' hospitality toward each other, and their Christian ideals, they are inherently prejudiced and discriminate against black citizens. In addition to their racist nature, Lee also portrays certain citizens' prejudice towards lower-class individuals and outcasts in their small community. Aunt Alexandra displays her prejudice by refusing to allow Scout to play with Walter Cunningham Jr. and Miss Stephanie Crawford spreads false rumors regarding the reclusive, awkward Arthur "Boo" Radley.

While the majority of Maycomb's community members display their prejudice in one form or another, Atticus, Miss Maudie, and Sheriff Tate are portrayed as morally upright individuals who believe in equality and treat others fairly. Despite the enormous backlash from the prejudiced community, Atticus proceeds to valiantly defend Tom Robinson. Unfortunately, people's prejudice influences the outcome of the trial, as Tom becomes the victim of racial injustice. Overall, Harper explores the relationship between people and politics by illustrating the culture of the Jim Crow South and depicting how people's prejudice corrupts the legal system. Innocent individuals like Tom Robinson are unjustly harmed as a result of prejudice, and Atticus's children gain insight into the nature of their racist community.

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Much of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird explores the complex intersection of "people and politics." More specifically, much of the novel focuses on taking larger political issues (racism, sexism, class inequality) and distilling these issues down to a more personal, individual level. For example, the first part of the novel serves to describe the childhood world of Scout, Jem, and Dill. This world is populated by kind, caring, and personable neighbors. After constructing this seemingly idyllic world, Lee spends the latter half of the novel exploring the hidden prejudices that these neighbors harbor. She does so most prominently in the Tom Robinson case, at which point Scout and Jem's "kindly" neighbors condemn an innocent black man simply because he is black.

In Mockingbird, Lee shows how larger political issues - especially political issues involving racism and prejudice - manifest themselves in a more personal setting. In other words, Lee illustrates how it takes "people" to keep political prejudice alive. Most of the time, Lees shows, these people are not a group of far away bigots who are purely evil; rather, they're our neighbors and our friends, individuals that we care about. By illustrating how political prejudice works on this personal level, Lee delves deeply into the complex nature of being human and living in a community with other, deeply flawed, humans. 

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