How Does Harper Lee Present Racial Issues During the 1930s in the Novel ‘to Kill a Mockingbird’?

Harper lee has presented racism in the novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by describing how blacks live and are treated harshly. The court case of Tom Robinson, which is the main part of the story is a metaphor that Harper Lee has created of the situation in the 1960’s. Things were not stable at the time and Tom’s case is just one example of the racial discrimination the blacks were facing during this time. The racial tension in the 1930s was so serious that even when blacks did do well, they were still mocked.

An example is when Aunt Alexandra said, “Jem’s growing up now and you are too.

We decided that it would be best for you to have some feminine influence. ” Calpurnia was a female however Aunt Alexandra still over-looked this, because of her race. People were so biased and misguided that it didn’t matter how good a job a black person did. Since there was such strong racism in Maycomb, there were excuses made for whites.

Racism in Maycomb was everywhere. Any attempt to deviate from that way of thinking was unspeakable, and you were known as a ‘nigger-lover’. Atticus told Scout: “nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don’t mean anything – like snot-nose.

It’s hard to explain – ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s favouring Negroes over and above themselves. ” Most of the people in Maycomb were racially prejudiced, but those who weren’t were seen as having a heart.

Get quality help now
Dr. Karlyna PhD

Proficient in: Discrimination

4.7 (235)

“ Amazing writer! I am really satisfied with her work. An excellent price as well. ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

The 1930’s were a turbulent time for race relations in America. Furthermore racial discrimination also took place inside family households. This is shown when Aunt Alexandra tried to get rid of Calpurnia from the family, simply because: “we don’t need her now. ” On top of this, Aunt Alexandra got angry and frustrated when Scout told Atticus of how she and Jem went to Calpurnia’s church.

Another factor to be considered is the incident that occurred when Calpurnia was entering the blacks’ church with Jem and Scout. Lula hated the fact that there where white children their and argued: “You ain’t got no business bringin’ white chillun here – they got their own church, we got our’n. ” Lula obviously shows that it is also the black community who hate the white society and do not want them either. African Americans were the primary target of most racist acts in the 1930s. Blacks suffered harsher conditions and were forced off their lands and farms.

Robert Ewell is one of the worst racists who abuses everything about the blacks and what they own. He explains how worthless they are when he says Tom Robinson: “lived down yonder in that nigger-nest. ” This shows how Blacks were seen as inferior and substandard compared to the whites of Maycomb. The whites who have their minds set about colour of the skin is destroying people’s relations and causing the situation and political stability to worsen. Furthermore, the whites compare the black area as a ‘nest’ showing how immoral they are and how low they put the blacks.

Racism portrayed in the novel can also draw out the worst in many, while it can also bring out the darkness in people’s hearts. As Atticus states: “a place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any colour of the rainbow. People have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. ” The quote clearly explains that even the justice system was influenced by racial discrimination in the 1930s even if it was breaking the law. The concept of racism is further explored when part of the town acts unfriendly towards Atticus, because he defended Tom.

Atticus is seen as a “nigger – lovin’ bastard” by the people of Maycomb. Racism corrupted the town of Maycomb which is evident in the death of Tom Robinson. Rumours and gossip were exchanged around Maycomb such as: “typical of a nigger’s mentality to have no plan, no thought for the future, just run blind first chance he saw. ” In this quotation, the word ‘typical’ is implying that all black people have a lower intelligence level than white people and are less educated and are almost good for nothing. Even though the choice of vocabulary given to Bob Ewell shows that he is less educated, the blacks are still seen as unintelligent.

Throughout ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, we clearly come across a number of varying forms of racism. We see it through denied opportunities to the blacks; they are denied jobs and are forced to work for very low wages in the fields or as cooks. It was made clear that just because Tom was a Negro, the jury would convict him without a second glance, as they believed that all blacks were immoral and full of sin. The jury never realised that their discrimination of the blacks was a sin in the first place and it makes me feel very upset because you should never judge someone by their appearance.

Cite this page

How Does Harper Lee Present Racial Issues During the 1930s in the Novel ‘to Kill a Mockingbird’?. (2019, Jun 20). Retrieved from

Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7