AKE 108 (01)
Res. Assist. Bülent AYYILDIZ
May 3, 2018
Throughout American history, there has been heated debate concerning the phrase ”all men are created equal.” Jefferson originally meant for this phrase to only white land-owning men, but it has come to include all men. This change has not been quick.-it has taken hundreds of years and many leaders. Though, it seems, to reach Jefferson’s ideal society, American nation had to struggle with discrimination. Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, which was written in 1960, is one of the most effective literary device that helps to change people’s point of views against discrimination. In the novel it is seen that the characters have to overcome the problems of racism, class conflict, and ethics.
In the 1950s, two psychologist named Kenneth and Mamie Clark conducted an experiment which is widely known as ”doll experiment” They chose black cildren as subjects and put two dolls in front of them. One was white and the other was black. The experiment was simple. The psychologists wanted black children to show which doll is pretty, nice and do they want to play with. Almost three quarter of these black children chose white doll. When asked the reason, the answer was obvious: because the doll was white. On the other hand, when asked which doll is ugly and bad , they showed black doll. When asked the reason, the answer was again obvious: because the doll was black. The most sensitive spot was, when they questioned which doll is more look like themselves they unwillingly showed the black doll. All the bad things said about the black doll were actually their whole truth. Just because their skin color was different from the other, the black children saw themselves vile. Author Harper Lee was influenced from this experiment before writing his novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, and tried to explore racism and its effects in her novel.
The main character of the novel is Atticus Finch, who is an attorney in Maycomb, Alabama, which is a very conservative state. Atticus was a high-moraled man who always stands up with good. In the times of Great Depression, the town was shaken by a rumor which was about a black man named Tom Robinson raped a white girl named Mayella Ewell, daughter of Bob Ewell, known as the most plaguy man in the town. Almost every white person in the town, regardless of proof, found the black guy guilty because of his skin color. And also it is possible to see the roots of racial prejudice based on skin color in the Bible. In the book of Genesis, because God accepted Abel’s sacrifices but not accepted Cain’s because he tried to fugitive the God, Cain kills Abel –both are children of Adam and Eve- God curses Cain to a life of toil and wandering. But when Cain laments that his own life is in danger, God promises to protect him: ”The Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one whome came upon him would kill him.” (Gen 4:15) In the past, many believed the mark on Cain to be dark skin—that God changed the color of Cain’s skin to black in order to identify him. Since Cain also received a curse, the belief that the mark was black skin caused many to believe that people of dark skin were cursed. Many used the “mark of Cain” teaching as a justification for the African slave trade and discrimination against people with black/dark skin. Especially the towns like Maycomb, in which 80% percentage of people are conservative, believed that blacks are sinful and they deserve whatever came upon them. Everybody thinks that there is no need for rummaging this case because as a white man, Atticus Finch shouldn’t advocate a black man. But contrary to what is believed, Atticus takes the case and starts digging this event.
Tom Robinson’s trial can be regarded as biliteral. One side is based on Ewells’ perspective. Ewells are ”the lowest of the low amongst the whites in Maycomb.” Every single person in the town knows that they are ignorant, plaguy, liar yet nearly all white people are willing to believe the story from Ewell’s point of view. Moreover, they say that ”Tom is a dead man the minute she opened her mouth and screamed.” Mayella Ewell states that, in a hot summer evening, she appeals for help from Tom to dissect the chair when she see him passing by her house. After entering the house, Tom tries to rape her and also punches again and again when she disobeyes. Mayella’s father hears his daughter’s screams and runs to his house. When Bob sees his daughter under a ”black beast” he gets shocked and tries to catch him. This story was so impeccable that townspeople, with pleasure, accepted that Tom Robinson is criminal until he opens his mouth.