What is the type of prejudice seen in both To Kill a Mockingbird and The Merchant of Venice? I need some arguments for my essay on both.

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is one, overwhelmingly, apparent similarity in both Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird and William Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice: prejudice.

Outside of the fact that each are different types of prejudices, they do both play very relevant and important parts in each of the texts.

In To Kill a Mockingbird, the prejudice depicted is one of racial prejudice. In The Merchant of Venice, the prejudice is that of a religious nature.

Support of the racial prejudice in Harper Lee's novel can be seen in both the societal view and, more so, in Bob Ewell's prejudice. For example, the prejudice of Maycomb is seen in a quote taken from Atticus (Chapters 9 and 23):

Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don't pretend to understand.

The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box.  As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life.

An example regarding prejudice in The Merchant of Venice is found in Act III (scene i, lines 58-68). Here, Shylock is admitting that people only treat him as they do based upon the fact that he is Jewish. Shylock, trying to prove himself to be similar to those around him, states the following:

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands,
organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same
food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases,
heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter
and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If
you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the
rest, we will resemble you in that.

In both texts, it is apparent that people are treated differently, or prejudiced against, based only on the color of their skin or their Religious ideology. Regardless, prejudice is very apparent in each.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird and Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice both explore the themes of prejudice. Throughout To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee examines both racial and class prejudice. Racial prejudice is illustrated in Tom Robinson's wrongful conviction by an all white jury. Atticus elaborates on the racial prejudice throughout the town of Maycomb in his closing arguments. In his final statement to the jury, Atticus exposes the "evil assumption," which is the belief "that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women" (Lee, 125). In addition to racial prejudice, Lee also examines class prejudice. Aunt Alexandra provides numerous examples of class prejudice throughout the novel. In an argument with Scout, Aunt Alexandra refuses to let her play with Walter Cunningham Jr. because she thinks he is "trash." Alexandra feels contempt for lower-class citizens and does not want her family members associating with them.

Shakespeare depicts ethnic and religious prejudice throughout the play The Merchant of Venice. Shylock is discriminated against because he is a Jewish usurer. The Venetian Christians expressed intolerance toward the Jews in their country, which is one of the main reasons Shylock resents Antonio. Shylock is also criticized for practicing usury, which at the time was one of the few professions Jewish citizens could occupy. Jews living in Venice during the 16th century were excluded from other professions, which means Shylock was essentially limited to practicing usury to make a living. Shylock is also subjected to anti-Semitic bullying throughout the play and is stigmatized as a greedy Jew. Despite Shylock's callous nature, the audience can sympathize with his character because he is subjected to ethnic and religious prejudice.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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