To Kill a Mockingbird


Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, focuses on the
relationship built between a brother and a sister in the small town of
Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930’s. Maycomb, like anyother southern town
is full of gossip, tradition, and a legacy of racism. The traditional Southern
racism of Maycomb is looked at through the eyes of a young narrator,
Scout Finch. These questions are crucial in Scout’s search for her own
identity. Scout must come to terms with the racism of her town and how it
affects the people in her life. She must find her own position and what role
she will play in the whole racial game. A number of people greatly
influence Scout. The two major role models in her life, her Aunt Alexandria
and her father Atticus, pull Scout in two opposing directions.
Brought into the Finch household to teach and act as a female role
model for young Scout, Aunt Alexandra begins by demonstrating to Scout
Calpurnia’s minor position. For Aunt Alexandra, Cal will not do as a role
model for Scout. Aunt Alexandra from the beginning shows Scout who
posses the power. “Put my bag in the front bedroom, Calpurnia, was the
first thing Aunt Alexandra said.” The first time Aunt Alexandra appears in
the novel, she instantly shows the lack of respect she has for Cal.
Alexandra does not say “please” or “thank you”, just a simple command
forcing Cal into a servitude. Cal has symbolized strength and authority
throughout Scout’s childhood, by acting as a mother figure in the Finch
household. Scout has never seen Cal in such a low and submissive
position.
Calpurnia has established a respected place in the Finch family
through the years of dedicated service and through the love she has
shown the Finch children. Aunt Alexandra senses the family’s closeness to
Cal, and fears the bond the family has with Cal. Any relationship with a
black person that goes deeper than employer and employee causes
scandal in Maycomb. Shortly after her arrival, Aunt Alexandra councils
Atticus. “And don’t try and get around it. You’ve got to face it sooner or
later and it might as well be tonight. We don’t need her now.” Aunt
Alexandra clearly wants Cal out of the family. Alexandra sees the respect
and love that Scout feels towards Cal and fears Scout will learn to love
what she considers “trash”. Aunt Alexandra’s label of trash does not only
classify blacks, but any group or person that she considers to be lower on
the social pyramid of Maycomb. Alexandra regards herself and the rest of
the Finches as the royalty of Maycomb and she tries to make Scout
understand this notion. She attempts to teach Scout how to be a real
Finch “lady”, and if Scout wants to be a Finch “lady” she can’t care for and
love people who are not Alexandra’s “kind of folks”.
Atticus through both his actions and his words contradicts everything
that Alexandra stands for. Atticus shows Scout how to act without forcing
his part as a role model on her, as Aunt Alexandra does. Atticus leads by
example, showing the highest respect for everyone in Maycomb, not
distinguishing by color or class. His serious defense for Tom Robinson, a
black man accused of raping a white woman, proves his high ideals.
Atticus fights a hopeless battle against the racism in the town. Atticus not
only shows his non prejudice through the trial of Tom Robinson, but also
through his everyday dealings with Calpurnia. Atticus ignores Alexandra’s
attempts to fire Cal. “Alexandra, Cal’s not leaving this house until she
wants to. You may think otherwise, but I couldn’t have got along without
her all these years. She’s a faithful member of this family and you’ll simply
have to accept things the way they are...” Atticus directly counters
Alexandra’s wish to get rid of Cal, showing the high value he puts on
Calpurnia. Atticus even goes as far as to say he regards Cal as a “faithful
member of the family...” which goes against all that Alexandra has tried to
teach Scout. Atticus does not openly tell Scout to follow his lead and reject
the racism of Aunt Alexandra, but Scout sees all that Cal means to her
family and sees how Atticus respects Cal as an equal. Atticus’s respect
and dependency on Cal forces Scout to question Aunt Alexandra’s low
opinion of Calpurnia and of all black people.
Harper Lee uses the small town of Maycomb, Alabama as a setting
for different views on civil rights. On a smaller scale, he uses the
relationship between