In To Kill A Mockingbird, how is justice portrayed throughout the story and why is it important?

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Justice is portrayed or symbolized in this novel as a mockingbird. A mockingbird is an innocent creature that harms no one and sings beautiful songs. As Miss Maudie tells Scout, it is a sin to kill it.

Therefore, killing or harming an innocent person is at the heart of...

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Justice is portrayed or symbolized in this novel as a mockingbird. A mockingbird is an innocent creature that harms no one and sings beautiful songs. As Miss Maudie tells Scout, it is a sin to kill it.

Therefore, killing or harming an innocent person is at the heart of how injustice is understood in this novel. The two people who are mockingbirds treated unjustly are Tom Robinson and Boo Radley.

Tom Robinson is the main mockingbird. Although he has done nothing but try to be helpful to Mayella Ewell, she accuses him of rape. In the racist world of the South, the word of a white woman is always automatically believed over the word of a black person. Although Robinson is clearly innocent of rape, he is unjustly convicted by a jury that places upholding the racial hierarchy over making a fair decision based on evidence.

Boo Radley, being white, suffers a far less dire fate than Tom Robinson, but the prejudice with which the children treat him is a parallel story to the prejudice with which the white community of Maycomb treats Robinson. Despite all the evidence that he is a kind and good person, Jem, Scout, and Dill persist in seeing him as frightening and monstrous bogeyman⁠—at least until he saves Jem and Scout's lives.

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The difficulty and sometimes impossibility of achieving justice through the legal system is the dominant theme of the novel. It is important because it is literally a matter of life or death. Racism is offered as the primary obstacle to achieving justice, with more influence even than classism and money. The root of justice in the word “prejudice,” or to judge in advance, also applies here. Despite the first-rate defense that Tom Robinson obtains from Atticus Finch, who represents him pro bono, the all-white jury takes the word of the white accuser over that of the black defendant. The idea of a jury of his peers did not apply to Robinson, nor would it to any black person who was tried in that era.

Closely related to the way the case plays out in the courts is the parallel “trial” of public opinion that nearly results in Robinson’s getting lynched. Harper Lee shows that a great gulf existed between Atticus’s understanding of his fellow townspeople and their approach to punishing a man for an alleged, but unproven crime. Lee shows how the children learn the flaws of the system through following the trial and Atticus’s involvement. Even more, however, she shows how they come to understand the harm of the informal judging of other people. This comes up when Scout inadvertently, through her innocence, thwarts the lynch mob. In addition, she and the boys move from believing the gossip about Arthur Radley and treating him badly, to seeing him as an equal, fellow human being.

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It is important to note that in To Kill A Mockingbird, the presence of injustice is used to demonstrate the need to pursue justice.  This is evident on all levels- from the most serious levels involving Tom Robinson's clearly unjustice trial down to things that seem trivial such as the injustices Scout sees in her first grade classroom.

This story has endured largely because of the realistic circumstances of the injustices.  Note that while Atticus strives for justice and is certainly a noble man, he is not able to right all the wrongs of the world; in fact, he is not even able to keep injustice from his town where he is a man of notable stature.  The ending might lead a legal purist to say that justice was not truly served, but the decision to protect Boo Radley seems to the reader to be justice in a higher sense.

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Justice...that's huge. If this is an essay, you're going to have to narrow your thesis.

The novel deals with justice and prejudice throughout. The title basically captures the whole theme of the book: it is a sin to kill a Mockingbird. Atticus tells his children this. The reason--mockingbirds do nothing bad--they just sing. There are a couple of "mockingbirds" in the story--Boo, Tom Robinson. Both these men are innocent victims of the town.

A few brave people try to do the right thing. Atticus seeks justice for Tom by opting to defend him in court (Tom is being tried for a rape he did not commit). The jury convicts Tom because they essentially believe the white woman who accused him.

Boo is in part a victim of his father's idea of what is just. Instead of being sent to a state school, his father keeps him under house arrest--a punishment that last Boo's entire life.

Boo risks everything when he saves Jem and Scout. When he stabs bob Ewell (Mayella's abusive father), it is the right thing to do--he saves Jem's life. However, if justice were served according to the letter of the law, Boo would have gone to jail for what he did.

Both Heck Tate (the sheriff) and Atticus decide to lie to save Boo from the consequences of his action. Atticus lies and says that Jem did it (knowing Jem is still too young to stand trial) and Heck Tate lies and says that Bob Ewell "fell on his knife". This means that both of the men who are sworn in one capacity or another to uphold the law are willing to bend it to protect a vulnerable person. So there is humanity in the justice in the book. It shows that there is a type of justice that goes beyond the courts, and that sometimes the "right" thing is not upheld by the law.

An underlying theme in this book is that we as humans are responsible for acting according to our conscience. We should try to use the law when we can, but we also have a higher imperative--we have to follow our conscience.

 

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