I need to write a thesis based on this statement: "Harper Lee believes that racism is like an illness by talking about how it infects people."This question deals with To Kill a Mockingbird. I need...

I need to write a thesis based on this statement: "Harper Lee believes that racism is like an illness by talking about how it infects people."

This question deals with To Kill a Mockingbird. I need help!

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James Kelley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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I would suggest that you focus on the symbol of the rabid dog in Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

Chapter 10 includes the extended scene in which Atticus shoots the dog.

Chapter 21 includes a brief observation (by Scout) of the similarities between the scene with the dog and the trial scene: ““it was like watching Atticus walk into the street, raise a rifle to his shoulder and pull the trigger, but watching all the time knowing that the gun was empty.” Atticus is able to kill the rabid dog with one shot, but his fantastic aim (and logic) isn’t enough to defeat the irrational, racist views of the community.

I don’t have a copy of the book on hand, but I believe that in Chapter 18, during Atticus’ questioning of Mayella Ewell, there’s another reference to Atticus’ good aim and a reuse of the metaphor of shooting an animal (this time a twitching cat, I believe). In this instance, the madness of racism doesn’t seem to be a central issue, but this moment in the novel may be worth noting, too, because it  presents the idea of bringing down the opposition with a clean shot of logic.

See the links below for the enotes study guide to the novel and for a discussion (at enotes) of the symbol of the rabid dog.

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