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The Influence Of Stereotypes In To Kill A Mockingbird - With A Free Essay Review



Humans were made imperfect and we highlight other people's flaws as an attempt to hide our own. Stereotypes are a big part of our society and they never fade away with time. In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, the pressures of the stereotypical society of the 1930s are portrayed by the behaviours of the characters Mayella Ewell, Bob Ewell and Tom Tom Robinson.

Born into poverty and shame, Mayella Ewell was an outcast in Maycomb. She wanted for somebody to love her, which was something she had never felt before from her parents. "Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed", Atticus said to the court. Although she was at the bottom of society, she knew the advantage she had of being white. "She was white, and so she tempted a Negro. She did something that in our society is unspeakable: she kissed a black man...No code mattered to her before she broke it, but it came crashing down on her afterwards", Atticus said during the trial. Mayella Ewell may not have been the most intelligent girl, but she was aware of the harsh consequences she would face for her actions. If the word got out about her kissing a black man, even the smallest chance she had of ever marrying or getting accepted into society would have been destroyed. "She has committed no crime. She has merely broken a rigid and time-honoured code of our society, a code so severe that whoever breaks it is handed from our midst unfit to live with. She is the victim of cruel poverty and ignorance, but I cannot pity her: She is white." Atticus was right about her not committing a federal crime, although she framed Tom for one, but she committed a crime to the racist society she belonged to. She was selfish to have framed an innocent man just so she could keep her lowly place in society, but she was not entirely responsible for her actions. It was the strong pressure from the world she lived in that set an invisible list of regulations, that ultimately gave her the idea to scream.

The Ewells lived around trash, they were treated as the garbage they were surrounded by and their actions did not prove the judgements wrong. Bob Ewell was in need of a break and when the opportunity came, he took it gladly. During the trial, Atticus said, "We do not know in part what Mr.Ewell did: he did what and God-fearing, persevering, respectable white man would do under the circumstances." Bob Ewell selfishly used his daughter's pride in order to strengthen his own reputation in Maycomb's society. He punished his daughter with bruises and cuts, but he was not angry. He was more interested in finding ways to use the circumstances to his advantage. Atticus explained to his son, "Jem, see if you can stand in Bob Ewell's shoes a minute. I destroyed his last shred of credibility at that trial, if he had any to begin with. The man had to have some kind of comeback, his kind always does." Bob's schemes were ruined by Atticus and his calculations turned against him. He had thought that he would gain something out of the trial, but instead he fell even lower than he used to be. People were sympathizing the black men more than him and that was an insult to him. Jem said to Scout, "I mean in Maycomb county. The thing about it is, our kind of folks don't like the Cunninghams, the Cunninghams don't like the Ewells, and the Ewells hate and despise the coloured folk." Everybody is compared on a regular basis to someone who is better than them and they take out their humiliations on someone who is inferior to them. Mr. Ewell's only advantage over Tom Robinson was the tone his skin colour, but that was enough for society to side with him.

Tom Robinson was the sacrificial lamb of somebody else's sin. "The evil assumption that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women.." said Atticus. Tom committed no crime, but his only crime was the fact that he was born with the dark tone of his skin colour, which to the eyes of society was a punishable offence. "And so a quiet, respectable, humble Negro who had the unmitigated temerity 'to feel sorry' for a white women had had to put his words against two white people", Atticus dictated the only crime Tom committed. Just like the words of Atticus, Tom was only guilty of showing kindness and pity towards the lonely Mayella, but his thoughtful actions were returned with only hatred. Everybody inside the court room during the trial was shown of Tom's innocence by Atticus, but they turned a blind eye and kept silent. Atticus explained this fact to Jem, "Tom Robinson's a coloured man, Jem. No jury in this part of the world's going to say ' we think you're guilty but not very' on a charge like that." Tom was the victim of the cruel biased thoughts of a white society and he knew the outcome of the trial before it even began.

Being part of society comes with a set of instructions and the guidelines on the way you must think in order to be accepted. Today's world has not changed compared to the racist world of Mayella Ewell, Bob Ewell and Tom Robinson, who were guilty of breaking the guidelines of their society. Although racism has diminished since the 1930s, it hasn't been completely destroyed. Our society should learn from the past and not repeat the crimes humans have committed over the issue of colour.

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ESSAY REVIEW

The thesis (the final sentence of the first paragraph) is too vague (what you mean here by "pressures," for example, is unclear), and in its current form probably doesn't mean what you intended it to mean. The society is not stereotypical -- well, perhaps the society in the novel is stereotypical, but presumably what you mean to say is that the society is one that tends to engage in stereotyping.

Your first argument in defense of your thesis (that Mayella is a victim in some sense of the pressures in a society that would leave her as an outcast forever if her actions were known) is the clearest and strongest argument of the essay. I find the second argument, about Bob Ewell, much less clear in terms of its relation to your thesis. The first part of that argument seems to indicate that Bob Ewell is certainly responsible for his actions, and you say very little here to suggest that he too, like Mayella, is a victim of the pressures of society. Perhaps you imply something of that sort, by way of quotation, but you make no explicit claims. Then, towards the end of the paragraph, you seem to change topics completely (paragraphs should deal with a single topic). You don't clearly relate either topic to your thesis, as you had done at the end of your paragraph on Mayella.

Your argument about Tom is also a little unclear to me. The problem starts in the second sentence, in which you quote a fragment of some remarks by Atticus (this quotation is not properly integrated into your sentence, since the sentence as a whole is not grammatically complete; your second quotation in the paragraph has a similar problem). You don't clarify for your reader the significance of that quotation. Generally, you ought to try to do that, but it is particularly important to do so here. You need to explain, for instance, how the evil assumption to which Atticus refers impacts what happens in the novel. You end the paragraph on Tom by claiming that Tom is "a victim of the cruel biased thoughts of a white society." It's not clear to me what that means in this specific case. I don't know, for instance, what thoughts you are referring to, and I don't know whether you think the jury is the voice of white society, or whether you think instead that it is the prejudicial thoughts of the white society generally that leads to Tom being on trial and subsequently being convicted. Is it your idea, for instance, that the jury doesn’t think he is guilty and convicts him because they just want to or because they feel that is what society demands of them; or is it rather the case that the jury's prejudice is such that they just assume he is guilty because he is black and despite exculpatory evidence? (Note by the way the use of the present tense rather than the past tense in my previous sentences; that’s standard practice.) You quote Atticus explaining to Jem why Tom is convicted, but you don't explain to us exactly what Atticus means (generally in your essay you rely on quotations to make your argument for you; you need to clarify for your reader how these quotations should be interpreted).

Finally, there is bit of talk in the novel, as you know, about looking at things from the perspective of others. You have an example of Atticus doing that himself in the paragraph on Mayella, and you have a quotation in which he advises his son to do it in the subsequent paragraph. Doing that helps us see the extent to which others are perhaps not as blameworthy as they first appear. I mention this only because the issue seems related to the one you explore: looking at things from the perspective of others allows one to imagine the pressures (to use your word) they are under and so to see them as less responsible than one might otherwise be inclined to do. You might look into that issue, then, if you are interested in developing the argument of your essay.

Best, EJ.
Submitted by: yoochunluv
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