What techniques does Harper Lee use to convey the issues of racism and justice in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Lee uses plot and point of view techniques to convey the idea of racism in To Kill a Mockingbird.

The word racism appears nowhere in the big.  Lee is the master of showing, not telling.  The main technique Lee uses to convey the issue of racism is to have an obviously innocent man convicted of a heinous crime that he could not physically have committed.  We see many instances of racism throughout the book, but the conviction of Tom Robinson is very affecting.

Atticus says it best in his closing statement at Robinson’s trial.

To begin with, this case should never have come to trial. This case is as simple as black and white.

“The state has not produced one iota of medical evidence to the effect that the crime Tom Robinson is charged with ever took place. It has relied instead upon the testimony of two witnesses whose evidence has not only been called into serious question on cross-examination, but has been flatly contradicted by the defendant.” (ch 20)

Lee also conveys the idea of racism by choosing a child as a narrator.  We see the world of Maycomb through Scout’s eyes, as she tries to understand how the world works in her Southern town.  They realize the injustices of the world:  Jem is appalled that Tom is convicted, and Scout is appalled that women are not allowed to serve on juries.

Atticus comments:

“I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it—seems that only children weep.” (chapter 22)

This makes the reader stop and think: why do only the children care that convicting Tom is wrong.






Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial