To Kill A Mockingbird: To Be an Outsider Is To Be a Hero
What does it mean to be an outsider? On a personal level, the thought of being excluded from a group to me, made being labelled as an ‘outsider’ seem negative. However, Harper Lee, through her thought-provoking yet engaging novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, places a whole new perspective on what an ‘outsider’ truly is. This new and intriguing perspective is conveyed through the character Atticus Finch, the hero of the story. A character who stirred admiration within my heart as he faced opposition concerning justice, equality/egalitarianism, and respect. Without a doubt, Harper Lee ingeniously created a novel having a lasting effect not only on the views accepted by the world but also on the views accepted in one’s heart. To Kill A Mockingbird – the novel of a lifetime.
To Kill A Mockingbird is set in Maycomb, a fictional small town in southern America of the 1930s. The use of this setting is quite clever because the community conformed to the acceptance of racism believing that ‘white’ was superior and ‘black’ was inferior. It would take an ‘outsider’ to challenge these beliefs. Atticus Finch, being the great man he was, chose to be this outsider. And it was this decision which led to scathing criticism, an impossible-winning courtroom case, wild threats and even more; all a part of a gripping tale about what it takes to establish humanity. So, Atticus Finch is a key character who represents a perspective applicable to everyone but who exactly is he and why is he so admirable? Atticus is a competent lawyer and an aging loving father of two children, Scout and Jem. Having moral attitudes, he has a very strong desire to always stand up for what he believes in which takes a great deal of wisdom and courage.
Furthermore, while Atticus has a good sense of justice, he also is an excellent father figure who shows compassion and understanding not just to his children but to everyone. For example, Scout perceives him as an understanding person when she states, ‘When Jem an’ I fuss Atticus doesn’t ever just listen to Jem’s side of it, he hears mine too’ (9.92). It is obvious from this analysis that Atticus is indeed an admirable character who suits the role of the hero in the novel. Atticus Finch – admirable, wise, courageous and just – is both a hero and an outsider because he upheld strong righteous values and beliefs which opposed the values and beliefs of the community. The main values and beliefs that underpin the representation of Atticus Finch as an outsider include his support for egalitarianism, his respect for all people including the African American race, and his understanding and maturity.
The scathing disapproval he receives for upholding these values and beliefs is shown when Atticus’ young nephew, Francis, quotes ‘Grandma says it’s bad enough he lets you all run wild, but now he’s turned out a nigger-lover we’ll never be able to walk the streets of Maycomb again’ (9.90). Overall, Atticus Finch was an outsider in a biased white community because he upheld respectable strong values and beliefs which Harper Lee used to communicate her perspective about what it means to be an outsider. This perspective, to be an outsider means to be a hero, is also represented through the manipulation of generic conventions such as aesthetic features and stylistic devices. There is a key event that occurs in the novel that, in my opinion, “makes the story’.
This event is the trial scene. Tom Robinson – kind, humble and honest – was falsely accused of raping Mayella Ewell – lonely, spiteful and emotional – and it was up to Atticus Finch to instigate justice. An innocent defendant, a brilliant defender and convincing evidence – an easy win, no? However, there was one big thing that enabled the opposition to have the upper hand … Tom Robinson was African American. Although this disadvantage was known, the reader would have assumed that the ‘good guys’, Atticus Finch, would win because it is a common literary pattern. However, the ‘good guys’ did not win in this circumstance. This is known as literary variation and would have appealed to the reader. Moreover, this stylistic device indicates how unjust the justice system in the southern states of America was at that time; further supporting the perspective that to be an outsider is positive. Aesthetic features such as metaphors also are used effectively by Harper Lee to communicate that being an outsider is being a hero.
Metaphors are effective in communicating this perspective because they evoke a sympathetic and admirable response from the reader. For example, As Atticus explains why he feels that he must defend Tom Robinson, he uses metaphors such as “If I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this country in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again” (9.82). This and many more aesthetic features used throughout the novel hint on the morality of Atticus’ character which helps the reader to understand what the qualities are of being a hero. Martin Luther King who fought for equality and was an inspiration to millions; Jesse Owens who never stopped fighting for his dream and proved the Nazis wrong; Malala Yousafzai who was a young schoolgirl and became an example to the world to fight for equal rights and education. All alike unto Atticus Finch, all role models to society, all outsiders. It was these ‘outsiders’ who made a difference to society, who made this world a better place. What I’m trying to say is that To Kill A Mockingbird indeed conveys a true perspective that being an outsider is not negative but positive. Succinctly, through the excellent use of generic conventions, To Kill A Mockingbird encourages all that read it to have the courage to stand out, be different, and be a light to all those around you.
Throughout the first half of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Atticus Finch, the father of the main characters in the story demonstrates the golden rule that one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself with his words and actions of empathy. He teaches his children, Jem and Scout, how to be respectful and understanding towards others. Atticus shows them that there is value in having respect and a caring attitude for one another in...
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