How is truth demonstrated in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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

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Truth is not always readily evident among the townspeople of Maycomb County, and Jem and Scout spend much of their time trying to determine fact from fiction during the years that encompass the novel. The most glaring example of truth being ignored comes during the Tom Robinson trial when the jury decides to take the word of the Ewells over Tom's. Although Scout's narrative does not allow an omniscient presence to declare what actually happened between Tom and Mayella, it's obvious from the testimony that Tom's story is the truthful retelling. In 1930s Maycomb, however, the truth being told by a black man does not trump the lies uttered by a white man or woman--even if they are the lowly Ewells.

When it comes to Boo Radley, rumor and innuendo outweigh the truth, in part because so little is known about Boo. So much gossip has been spread about Boo that it is eventually taken as gospel, and one can only wonder if the townspeople would even believe Atticus and Sheriff Tate if they acknowledged that Boo had saved the lives of Jem and Scout. Tate's decision to call Bob's death accidental and self-inflicted comes in part because of the public reception that Boo would receive. Could a jury like the one that convicted Tom be expected to see the truth in Boo's defense of the children, or would they allow the previous rumors about him to again cloud their judgement?

Teachers do not fare well when it comes to the truth, particularly Miss Gates and her differences between Hitler, the Jews and Maycomb's Negroes. Dill does not always tell the truth, providing Jem and Scout with plenty of wild tales that they realize cannot all be true. Yet Dill is quick to recognize lies and injustice when he sees and hears it, and he yearns for a world where honesty and fair play are the rule and not the exception.

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