To Kill A Mockingbird

Nitin Raisinghani
History 400

To Kill A Mockingbird is a film which deceives the viewer with its apparent simplicity. A careful and analytical view of this film reveals a number of complex themes. Rather than being a simple film about a sleepy Southern town called Maycomb in the 1930\'s, it exposes the accepted societal cultural beliefs in America at the time. Race and class are reoccurring themes that overlap to form the basic elements of this storyline.

In this small town of Maycomb where a mundane lifestyle and simplicity overall define its people a tragic series is about to shake up the entire community. A community that is divided on the basis of race. A town divided on race was commonplace in the 1930\'s - separate restaurants, movie theatres, etc. The race theme is further enhanced with the turning point of when a white woman wrongfully accuses a black man of rape. This woman, Mayell Violet Ewell, a product of poor white trash society and a sexually abusive and alcoholic father accuses Tom Robinson, a Negro, of rape. An accusation of black man raping a white woman in the 1930\'s was one of the most serious and grave crimes of the time. Atticus Finch, the main character of the film is a white lawyer in Maycomb with two children, Scout and Jem. Coicnidentally, Scout is an active character and narrator of the film. The viewer sees the series of unfolding events through the eyes of this innocent 6 year old. As the story unfolds, Atticus is chosen as Tom Robinson\'s lawyer and consequently faces many hardships from the prejudicial white town folk in Maycomb. In the courtroom scene, we see evidence of the racial barriers in Maycomb at the time. The blacks sit in the balcony ( crow\'s nest) and the whites sit on the floor. Atticus Finch eventually proves Tom Robinson\'s innocence but the all white jury still finds him guilty. The decision comes as no surprise to the town. Tom Robinson is eventually lynched by the Maycomb police department. Atticus believes he could have proved Tom\'s innocence in a court of appeals. He naturally feels somewhat despondent. On Halloween night, months after the trail, Scout and Jem are on their way home on a secluded trail when suddenly they are attacked by a stranger. In a strange series of events Scout is left untouched and Jem is hurt and carried home by another stranger. Their attacker, Mayell Violet Ewell\'s father, Bob Ewell is killed by the stranger who carried the wounded Jem home. His name is Boo Radley. The character of Boo Radley introduces another complex dimension to the film. This complex dimension is the issue of class. The issue of class is also the other theme within the film. Scout and Jem seem to realize the difference between themselves and poor whites like the Cunningham\'s but fail to see the prejudices against Blacks until Atticus defends Tom Robinson. The viewer must also keep in mind that the story is being narrated from the eyes of an innocent and na´ve child. Scout slowly comes to realize the harsh realities of life in Maycomb. She realizes that society does not hold prejudices against people on the basis of class but on race as well. These innocent people who are the victims of racial class persecution just as Tom and Boo are in essence the "mockingbirds" of the story.

The film technique used in this film is essential in conveying certain key concepts, however, this forced resolution creates many "loopholes" when it comes to actual history. This is evident in any film and every film. The more a producer wants to convey a forced idea the more he/she will have to \'bend\' certain truths. This is the case with To Kill A Mockingbird. One example of this is the use of absence and presence in this film. Susan Hayward defines Absence/Presence as a temporal illusion that creates a reality out of selected images and sounds. In other words, certain actual facts and historical themes of time are left out of the film to convey a certain specified idea. It also works in other direction in that certain images and themes not necessarily reflecting the times are added to the