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Essay: Jim Crow Opposition In To Kill a Mockingbird

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  • Subject area(s): Literature essays
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  • Published: January 16, 2019*
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  • Words: 784 (approx)
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  • Jim Crow Opposition In To Kill a Mockingbird
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On January 31, 1865, slavery was abolished; but that doesn’t mean that racial segregation and unjust treatment of blacks was entirely solved. The Jim Crow laws that took place in the 1930s, nearly sixty-five years after the emancipation proclamation, pushed the rift between blacks and whites even further. An example of this would be, “It shall be unlawful for a negro and white person to play together or in company with each other in any game of cards or dice, dominoes or checkers.” —Birmingham, Alabama, 1930. In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, there are many actions that show either opposition to, or agreement with the Jim Crow laws. On many counts, we can see that Atticus Finch is one of the biggest proponents of opposition in this book.

Scout, Atticus’ daughter, is a young girl in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama and is very much immersed in the racist culture of the south. Cecil Jacobs, a schoolmate of Scouts, calls Atticus a “nxxxxx lover”. She knows that this term is an insult, but being a young child, she doesn’t understand what it means. Scout goes to Atticus and asks him what this means and why its so bad, but Atticus gets upset with Scout and tells her not to say the word “nxxxxx”.

“‘Do you defend nxxxxxs, Atticus?’ I asked him that evening.

‘Of course I do. Don’t say nxxxxx, Scout. That’s common.’

‘ ’s what everyone at school says.’

‘From now on it’ll be everybody less one—‘“ (Lee 75). Atticus is a very well educated and affectionate person, and one of his biggest life mottos is to not judge other people before climbing into their skin and walking around in it. Because the community is talking and acting a certain way, Scout sees and hears these things and thinks that they are acceptable. When Atticus says that the N-word is “common” he’s saying that the word is vulgar and disrespectful. This can show that Atticus just wants his daughter to be a compassionate person and to respect people no matter what others say— or what color skin they have.

Another way that Atticus shows his opposition is by taking the Tom Robinson case. He knows that no matter how hard he tries, it is impossible for Tom to get a fair hearing because of the all-white jury and the Crow laws, but despite this, he takes on the task to try his best to make it as fair as possible. “‘ It couldn’t be worse, Jack. The only thing we’ve got is a black man’s word against the Ewells’. The evidence boils down to you-did—I-didn’t. The jury couldn’t possibly be expected to take Tom Robinson’s word against the Ewells.” (Lee 55). Atticus realizes that the jury will not accept Tom’s testimony or think that it is truthful for the simple fact that he is African American. When talking to Jem and Scout, Atticus says that he is not only defending Tom Robinson’s case, but fighting for 100 years of history and he isn’t going to win against the prejudice no matter how good of a lawyer he is.

In chapter 14, after Alexandra, his sister, came to stay with Atticus. The two siblings get into an argument about Calpurnia, the Finch’s maid. Alexandra talks to Atticus and tells him that Calpurnia’s employment is no longer required; however, Atticus supports Calpurnia and says, “‘Alexandra, Calpurnia’s not leaving this house until she wants to…. She’s a faithful member of this family and you’ll simply have to accept things the way they are.’” (Lee 139). After his remarks, Alexandra is furious at Atticus because he has gone against the “normal” and conventional wisdom of their community. Harper Lee shows Atticus praising Calpurnia saying that she is more strict with the children than a normal mother would be, and argues that she raises the kids with manners and a sound set of ethics. There is a love shared between the kids and Calpurnia that would not be present in most others homes. Not only is Atticus giving Calpurnia an equal standing in his home, but he is referring to her as his family.

In conclusion, on many counts Atticus is showing to the reader his opposition to the racial stigmas of the Jim Crow laws. Although many times it is the silent or thought to be meaningless things he does, they bring a big impact.

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