The final chapters of the story are filled with racism and violence. After T. J. has been caught stealing with the Simms brothers, we witness the savage and brutal assault on T. J. and his family through Cassie’s young eyes. She says: ‘Mr and Mrs Avery are dragged savagely by their feet from the house. The Avery girls are thrown through the open windows. The older girls, attempting to gather the younger children to them, are slapped back and spit upon. Then quiet, gentle Claude is hauled out, knocked to the ground and kicked. ‘
We see yet again the dangers of the night men and the effects of racial prejudice. Even if T. J. had not been stealing, it is assumed that he has committed the crime as he is seen as one of the black people with low morals, thus he is punished, but it was one for the whole family, even the innocent. It teaches other blacks not to ‘step out of line’ and that they should be prepared to suffer the consequences of their actions if they do. Mrs Barnett’s conviction that all three boys are black even though R. W. and Melvin had their faces hidden under stockings says a great deal about the extent of her prejudice.
She is a microcosm of the 1930s’ white society, reflecting the severe prejudices shown towards blacks. At the end of the novel, the two communities are united in their fight against the fire, Mr Lanier and Mr Simms ‘each oblivious of the other’. The need of Whites to overpower the Blacks is overridden by a stronger need- to douse the flames as they are all dependant on the cotton crops for their livelihoods. There is irony in that they can work in harmony and for the common good. This is a scene of reconciliation however, for it is made clear that T. J.
will still be tried and almost certainly found guilty for the robbery. Predominantly, violence and racism is of whites against blacks, but this may not always be the case. An occasion where the opposite happens in “To Kill a Mockingbird” is when Cal takes Jem and Scout to the First Purchase Church on Sunday. They were halted by a Negro woman, Lula May, who objects to the presence of the white children in their church. She believes that whites and blacks are segregated, thus Lula May shows her discontent through: ‘you ain’t got no business bringin’ white chillin here, they got their church, we got our’n’
Black discontent can only be shown towards a white child who is breaking the rules of segregation that have been imposed by the whites on the blacks for usually, Blacks cannot show their disapproval of white ways, for fear of prejudice leading to violence and unemployment. Lula may is the only black character who has sufficient courage to expose her fury and feelings towards their racist white community. She is not afraid to make known her opinions even though consequences could be enormous, and perhaps this is the first step in the breaking down of prejudice.
In “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” there are also times when the anger in blacks’ hearts are too much to bear and they show their rage through violence. Their actions are understandable under these circumstances. Unlike “To Kill a Mockingbird” situations are not as clear cut as to whether they are the result of black prejudice against whites, but there is certainly an implication of it. When Stacey, Papa and Mr Morrison are faced with the unprovoked attack by the Wallaces on their way back from Vicksburg, Mr Morrison retaliates and inflicts grievous injuries on the Wallaces brothers.
This can be justified as self-defence, it being made clear to the readers that Stacey and Papa would have had little chance of survival if Mr Morrison had not been there. It also shows that Mr Morrison is courageous as attacking whites puts him in great danger and his own life might be at risk. Therefore, this act requires a lot of audacity. Another example is when Cassie seeks revenge for the humiliation she suffered in Strawberry by attacking Lillian Jean. The author deliberately diminishes her triumph by showing Lillian Jean to be both confused and upset by Cassie’s actions, saying:
‘Cassie, you wouldn’t do that, not after I trusted you… ‘ Lillian Jean does not understand the apparent change in Cassie. She regards her subservient behaviour as normal and her bewildered reaction takes the pleasure away from Cassie’s victory. Again this attack on a white shows the tremendous courage and determination Cassie holds in order to seek justice. Through this, Mildred Taylor suggests that Lillian Jean is also a victim of the attitudes of society in which she lives. We can now see that sometimes, prejudice might be of blacks against whites but usually these are acceptable and can be explained.
Courage is an important element which can help people through periods of hardships. In “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Miss Maudie is optimistic after the burning of her house. She says: ‘always wanted a smaller house, Jem Finch, gives me more yard. ‘ She has the courage to look on the brighter future rather than reminiscing over the past. ‘Real courage’ is shown when Atticus and the children are called to Mrs Dubose’s death bed. Atticus explains to the children that the reason for Mrs Dubose’s cantankerous nature is that she has been in the middle of fighting a morphine addiction, so that she could die a free woman.
He says: ‘I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. ‘ Mrs Dubose continues to fight her addiction even though she is fighting a losing battle. Her courage helps her through it and allows her to succeed. Scout learns that courage is a vital part of life to support one through hard times. She realises that she should also strengthen her courage and learn to tolerate nasty comments about her family to avoid more trouble for her father. Another type of courage that is emphasised is the fighting against evil and prejudice.
Understanding of others is sometimes not enough; an act of bravery is demanded to try to prevent evil taking place and to override prejudice. This type of courage is shown by Boo Radley’s heroic act when he rescues Jem from Robert Ewell. He has a compassion for the children and fears for their safety. When he sees Robert Ewell attacking Jem, he does not hesitate to save him, even though he knows he is attacking a White, a man in the class above. This shows the enormous courage that Boo holds. Both these main types of courage are evident when Atticus agrees to represent Tom Robinson for ‘rape’ despite knowing that success is unlikely.
His self respect and pride demand that he makes sure Tom Robinson gets a fair trial. His case is ordered and his oratory is admired. He is a man of extreme integrity, fighting against racial prejudice, setting an example for his children and it is through his mouth that Harper Lee expresses his moral philosophy. Atticus hopes to lead people to the understanding that Blacks deserve the same rights as Whites by setting a good example himself. Atticus also believes that one’s courage derives from the soul. He says: ‘The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.
‘ This is implying that courage can be found within those who hold on to their values and do not allow themselves to be swayed by the jibes and opinions of others. He teaches Jem and Scout to appreciate other’s opinions but should keep an open mind to form true views of someone. In “Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry”, courage is shown when Stacey leads the others in getting revenge on the bus and its occupants by digging a deep gully in which the bus becomes stranded, forcing its occupants to wade through the mud and water.
Stacey, like Boo, even though knowing he is attacking Whites, has enough courage to seek justice. He has the courage to stand up for what he believes and it is that that made them successful. Mama also has the courage to teach her own version of American history, not what appears in the approved county textbooks, even though it eventually leads to her dismissal. Her courage continues however and it is she who encourages a boycott of the Wallace store, despite knowing that consequences could be immense. Papa is prepared to stand against Mr Granger and to risk his life to prevent a lynching taking place.
The enormity of his courage is illustrated when he sacrifices a quarter of his land, burning up the cotton crop in his efforts to save T. J.. This act is not easy to perform but with great intrepidity and presence of mind, Papa is able to diffuse the potentially tragic situation that befalls T. J.. Papa is attempting to seek justice for T. J.. Like Atticus, he has the intention to combat prejudice. Thus he plucks up his courage to set an example. Mildred Taylor and Harper Lee have both created very powerful stories.
Whilst there are moments of warmth, security and love within the families, there are also terrifying times of fear, violence and destruction not only in blacks but which whites also have to endure in their struggle for survival. Through “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Harper Lee demonstrates the presence of racial discrimination amongst both black and white members of a community. Through their words, we see how life was unfair and unequal for many, and how they gathered enough courage and moral tolerance to face the racist attitudes and bigotry that have been inflicted against them.
Today, prejudice is still a lingering issue of everyday life, but with time, it has become much easier and opposed more often. There are still people who are striving for equality, however, and therefore by reading these books, we learn to follow the characters’ examples and aim to eliminate racism and discrimination.