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Good and Evil in To Kill A Mockingbird Essay


The balance of evil and innocence is a common theme in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. A finished piece of art work is a master piece. Though the colors may not blend perfectly, it is the imperfections in life that make it worth living. Sadly not all people were able to make their mark on the canvas we call life. This period in time was dangerous for non-whites. The Depression threatened their way of life and made people angry. Anger turns to evil, and evil corrupts the innocence of human beings. Prejudice becomes normal and expected in towns all over. The idea that innocence is inevitably destroyed by evil is constantly emphasized throughout the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Society has a way of corrupting the innocence of children. Children are born untainted. There are no distinct differences in a person that would cause them to be considered outsiders. People appear equal. As they grow up and mature in their environment, their senses open up to the harsh reality of the world. They are blinded by differences. However, when one have been taught to discriminate on ones differences it makes the world crumble. Undesirable jobs are often forced upon what whites see as the lower races, when Jem says, Why dont you get a colored man? (Lee 74). Their social environment has harden their hearts and made them feel as if they are the superior race. Jem and Scout do not really want to help Miss Maudie with their own hands. They prefer a colored man do the hard work. White people in this time period are spoiled and have no appreciation for all the work done by their legal slaves. Slavery may be banished, but segregation is a form of legal slavery. Blacks are supposed to be considered equal to whites now that slavery is illegal. It keeps blacks and whites separate, and keeps the fear in blacks. Whites want blacks to be physically strong but mentally weak. It is the only way to gain and keep control over their equals. Society states that it is okay to treat non-whites with disrespect and dehumanize them, to where even they think they are worthless. A white persons hatred is not limited to other races. There is racism in their own kind; white trash whites are discriminated by the wealthier whites. Racism knows no boundary, our folks dont like the Cunninghams, the Cunninghams dont like the Ewells, and the Ewells hate and despise the Negros Jem says (Lee 23). Even though they have signs of becoming racist human beings, Atticus has taught them to see past the white and black of their society to moral and immoral. When Tom is convicted, it is hard for Jem to understand how could they do it, how could they just convict an innocent man just by the color of his skin. (Lee 212-213). Early in the book Scout views blacks like the rest of the neighborhood views them, beneath her. She has no problem with the way Tom is being treated; to her this is normal behavior. She gets upset with Dill when she has to explain hes only a Negro (Lee 199). This is how southern whites treat blacks and one has to get use to it. Dolphus Raymond believes nothing makes one race of people better than another race of people, but Scout had a feeling she shouldnt be listening to this sinful man who has mixed children and didnt care who knew it (Lee 201). Society has brainwashed her to think that a relationship with a black person is the worst sin a white person can commit. The mixture ends in tainted half breeds that do not belong anywhere in society. Scout sees and understands the boundaries of life, with blacks on one side and whites on another side. When the two mix, neither side wants them. The blacks do not want the mixed child because they are half white, while the whites do not want the mixed child because they are half black. As Scout matures and begins to think on her own, she comes begins to understand that theres just one kind of folks. Folks (Lee 227). She is starting to see people for who they are and not what they look like. Adults were once children. They have been corrupted along the way to adulthood; they think with personal gain in mind and blur the lines of right and wrong. The jury at Tom Robinsons trail shows the corruption of innocence. Atticus states to Uncle Jack one night that the jury is going to follow the unwritten rule stating that a white mans word is always valid over a black mans word when he says, The evidence boils down to you-didI-didnt. The jury couldnt possibly be expected to take Toms word against the Ewells (Lee 88). Speeches can tap into many peoples different emotions, and when Scout steps into the crowd and talks directly to Mr. Cunningham, she transported him back to when he was a child. She made him emphasize with her, how he would have felt if strange men were going to hurt his father. For a brief moment he knew the fear Jem and Scout felt. Mr. Cunningham has a son, and he switched roles with Atticus. He personally would not want his son to witness what the mob was going to do; therefore Scout and Jem should not have to witness their father being brutally beaten up. Not all adults lose their childlike innocence. Some Adults dare to hope for change, but know the realities of society. Adults realize that to get what they want they have to suck up their pride and do something out of character. People tend to hide what they believe to please the majority. While some stand up for what they believe in and do not care who knows. These people try to set examples for what a good, kind hearted person would do. Change takes time. A racist society isnt going to change over night but at least, were making a step its a baby-step, but its a step. Miss Maudie states (Lee 216). Racism can destroy a person from the inside. When someone as innocent as Dill, a child, becomes a cynic, racism shows its true power, yes sir, a clownthere aint one thing in this world I can do about folks except laugh, soIm gonna stand in the middle of the ring and laugh at the folks (Lee 216). He has never experienced racism before, and his eyes were opened for the first time to the cruelty of racism. Halfway through Mr. Gilmers cross-examination, Dill starts to cry uncontrollably. He can not begin to understand how people can treat other people this way. Dill is a sheltered child. He has never seen blacks treated so unfairly in his life. In his few short years, he has never witnessed something so horrible that it changes his outlook on life. He cries his last tears to show pain the trial has inflicted on him as well as the hardening of his heart. There is an emotional gap between Jem, Scout, and Dill. They have been exposed slowly to racism and they understand that it is a daily part of life. Even with this knowledge, Jem still struggles with the outcome of the trial. The trial has emotionally hurt him. When Scout talks to Jem about the hypocrisy her teacher shows regarding racism, he becomes furious and grabs Scout by the collar and shakes her. This action against his little sister shows that the trial is still a sensitive spot in his life. Unlike Dill, Jem can be saved from the hurt of the outcome of the Tom Robinson trial. Dill sadly may already be lost. The emotional hurt necessary to turn a small child into a cynic is disturbing. Boo Radley was corrupted by society corrupting his father. Boo was a normal child enjoying his youth. He made one wrong decision and his dad was mortified, ashamed, and embarrassed. His dad did not want society to look down upon the Radley name and see his son acting like a fool. His religious beliefs played a role in locking Boo away from the world for thirty years. Mr. Radley hated anything having to do with fun; to him it was a waste of time. Spending time outside enjoying what God made was a waste of time when you could be inside reading Gods word. He was looking for a way to snatch Boo away from the material world and make him focus on the spiritual world. To do so he kept Boo inside focused on the Lord and his word.

There are no individuals when evil is present, people lose themselves in the mist of a crowd. The individual mind is subconsciously lost to the thoughts and wants of the group. With a mob comes strength and power. Scout addresses Mr. Cunningham as an individual and makes him think with his own head instead of the mob thinking for him. His wants are intermingled with every other person in the mob. Scout reaches Mr. Cunninghams individuality by confronting him alone as a person when she says, Hey. Mr. CunninghamDont you remember me, Mr. Cunningham? Im Jean Louise Finch I go to school with your boy. I go to school with Walter. Hes a nice boy. Tell him hey for me, wont you? (Lee 153). People become hateful when their way of life is threatened. The town folks of Maycomb County rebel against Atticuss desires to defend Tom Robinson to the best of his abilities. Instead of confronting Atticus about their issues with him, they take their frustration out on his children. Mrs. Dubose is a complex woman when it comes to her behavior. She hates everything Atticus stands for and lets her opinion be known to his children as they pass her house. However she enjoys Atticus as a person. Whenever he walks by her house they engage into witty banter between the two. She can not resist a southern gentleman. The ridicule these children face when they walk out of the house displays how cruel human nature can be. To have neighbors say there go his children in whispered smirks behind their backs, or to have them fighting to keep their pride in school puts Scout and Jem in a scary position. They have had to defend Atticuss motives to their friends on the school yard as well as their family members. In the moments where family support is what one needs most, the Finches do not have that. No one in their family respects or understands Atticuss decision regarding Tom Robinson. However because adults are quick to make snap judgments and not discuss the matter further with anyone, the information discussed behind closed doors in front of children becomes public knowledge. When Scout and Francis get into a verbal tussle, Francis proves the point when he copies what his grandmother says without truly understanding the reasoning behind it. Francis is ignorant in saying If Uncle Atticus lets you run around with stray dogs, thats his own business, like Grandma says, so it aint your fault (Lee 83). According to Francis his Grandma says its bad enough he lets you run wild, but now hes turned into a [Negro] lover well never be able to walk the streets of Maycomb again. Hes ruinin the family, thats what hes doin (Lee 83). Prejudice lies deep within the Finch family. When blood family should pull together and support one another based on love rather than political views, the Finch family fails. Scout later finds out that Atticus had no choice when it came to the Tom Robinson case. He was appointed to the case. She can not seem to figure out why Atticus had not told them that he did not choose this case. The truth is appointed or not, Atticus would have done his very best defending Tom Robinson. The news of this is something Scout does not understand. How can her father manage to make the morally correct decision and defend Tom Robinson when so many others tell him to ignore his conscience and do what the town wants him to do. Atticus is a man of his word. He does not let foul feelings interfere with what he wants to do.

Human nature destroys its self from the inside. Temptation is the root of all evil. Human beings are not born naughty, they are tempted into corruption. Adam and Eve were the definition of perfection on earth. God made them in his image and someone as perfect as God would undoubtedly make his creations perfection on earth. God only asks Adam and Eve to do one thing for him and they would get to live life free from disasters, sicknesses, and being ashamed. On the day Adam is created in the Garden of Eden God commands him to stay away from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he states, For the day you eat of it you shall surely die. The moment Eve is created from Adam the perfect union under God was created. The Garden of Eden was home to other creatures besides Adam and Eve. A Serpent, slier than every beast of the field tempts Eve to eat from the forbidden tree. She eats the fruit and gives the food to Adam and he eats the fruit too. Instantly their eyes are opened and they see themselves for the first time. They are ashamed of their nudity and hide from the sight of God. Understand that they have broken Gods one and only rule, He curses them with hard labor and painful childbirth then banishes them from His garden. He sets a cherub at the gate to bar their way to the Tree of Life, Lest he put out his handand eat, and live forever. God is a merciful god, even after being betrayed by his own creations he provided a way for the Garden of Eden to remain open to them. If Adam and Eve were to get past the guardian cherub and eat the fruit of the Tree of Life all would be forgiven and they could stay in the Garden of Eden. Eve was swayed in her thinking when the Serpent corrupted her mind into believing that God had lied to her. The seed of doubt had already been planted in her head, and she listened to the Serpent and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. She condemned not only her fate when her lips touched the fruit but also her partners fate by seducing him into eating the same fruit. The Lust of the forbidden fruit on the tree was too much for Eve to handle. Lust tempted Mayella when she was around Tom, she always asked him to help her with some little thing. During Toms testimony in court, it appeared to Scout that Mayella Ewell must have been the loneliest person in the whole world (Lee 191). She was so lonely that blacks were her only company. Her kind did not want a thing to do with her. She was white trash, and middle and upper class whites thought of the Ewells as no better than the Negros. Adam did not deliberately disobey God. He ate fruit his wife brought him; she was manipulative in not divulging where the fruit had originally come from. Adam betrayed God without even knowing it until he was banished from the Garden of Eden. Tom expressed his emotions for Mayella. He felt deeply sorry for her which at this time period was unethical. A black person feeling sorry for someone of the superior race was a mistake he let slip from his lips. In a time where whites have all the power, the last thing the superior race wants to hear is someone inferior saying they empathize with them. Tom had a habit for hanging around the Ewells land more often than necessary. However because of the skin difference, there was really no answer Tom could reply with except yes. She had control over him, and she knew it. If she said jump he would not even ask how high he would just jump. Toms biggest mistake was not noticing that the Ewell land, which was usually filled with children, was empty and quiet. Puritans take the story of Adam and Eve and carry the burden of their original sins with them through life. Eves corruption extended to all women, which justified treating women as second class citizens. Since the woman corrupted Adam into eating the forbidden fruit she is held responsible for the damnation of herself and Adam, and must carry the burden. There is no doubt that Mayella Ewell tempted a Negro. According to Puritan beliefs Mayella could not help herself the mother of all life on earth, Eve, manipulated situations and ended up getting kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Mayella manipulated the situation with Tom. She planned out her attack for him perfectly. She had a growing romantic fantasy inside her mind for Tom. While there was sadness and pity inside Toms mind. Out of all the Negros around the dump, Mayella singled him out; she had him on her property many times. Busting up chiffarobes, chopping wood, boiling water, she was getting him comfortable around her before she would make her move. She planned her advance for Tom extremely well; she paid attention to detail regarding her family. On the day of the alleged attack she saysthey all gone to town to get ice creams and her father was not on their property. (Lee 193). She knew what the plan was the moment she sent the kids away; she was also aware of what society would say if she was caught with Tom. Tom was in a compromising position. If he pushed her off with any kind of force she would cry assault and Tom would end up in court. He is a smart guy he knew the rules and he dare not break them. While giving his testimony Tom says, I didnt wanta push her or nothing (Lee 195). If Tom were to refuse her, she could get mad and take him to court. He is faced with a lose-lose situation. Tom is in a predicament he wouldnt have dared to strike a white woman under any circumstances and expect to live long, so he took the first opportunity to run a sure sign of guilt (Lee 195). If one looks at the Ewells from societys point of view, no one wanted anything to do with Mayella because of where she lived and who her father is. No respectable man is going to want to have a relationship with her; blue bloods do not marry white trash. It is a union that would fall apart based solely on social class. In the middle of her advance for Tom, her father showed up furious saying, you goddamn whore, Ill kill ya (Lee 194). Mayella was taken aback by her father and when that window of opportunity came, Tom ran for the hills. It is probably true that Mayella was brutally beat up by her father. The evidence shows that whoever hit Mayella was left handed because the bruises are on the right side of her body. Since Mr. Ewell is left handed he could have held her with his right hand and punched her with his left hand. He made Mayella testify that she had been raped by Tom Robinson, the man she was courting. It is obvious that she is lying. The evidence received in the first two testimonies was bluntly contradicted by every word that came out of her mouth. When asked questions, she is never straight forward with her answers and danced around issues discussed in the court room; or she would say the truth then change her answer when she knew it is not following the story her father and her had conspired. Mayella is out to save herself and does not care about who she takes down in her journey to personal gain. She wants people to see her as this pure, wholesome white woman instead of white trash. Deep down she feels they are her equals, kind sweet white women. Her kindness comes through with the description of her beautiful red flowers; they show she can care about something other than herself. Mayella is saving herself from being brutally assaulted by her father again by accusing Tom of raping her. Her father, Bob Ewell, is a pathetic human being. He cannot take responsibility for his actions. Instead he blames his problems like losing his job and being on welfare, on society. After the court case comes out in his favor he expects to be respected by the upper class whites, however he and his family are shunned back to the dump. For a brief moment the white race rallied together to beat a common enemy. However the moment the trial is over and their common enemy is taken away, the natural boundaries return. The whites were happy to join forces and bring Tom Robinson to justice during the trial. When it is all over, they say we helped you, now go back to your dump. After the trail Bob Ewell does some strange things. He stalks Helen Robinson, breaks into Judge Taylors house, and tries to kill Atticuss children. In his mind this is his way of getting back at people that were not rooting for him to win. He succeeds in breaking Jems arm, but Boo Radley pulls him off of Jem. A fight occupies the mens time and Boo Radley stabs Bob Ewell. Bob Ewell received poetic justice in his final moments, the thought that good conquers evil even in the darkest hour of time.

Evil attempts to manipulate the goodness of innocence in the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. A balance was made long ago about how much evil and good can exist in the earth as well as in a human being. The more concentrated evil you have in your body, the more vulnerable you are to innocence. Bob Ewell had such high levels of evil in his body that someone as pure a Boo Radley could only have defeated him. Though Boo Radley remained locked up inside for thirty years, the solitude did not harden his heart. Innocence has the power to prevail over evil however; the innocence in people is inevitably destroyed depending on the purity of ones heart.

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