Unjustness In To Kill A Mockingbird
Throughout chapters eleven and twelve, unjustness is represented by the people of Maycomb in many cases. One case is in the cartoon published in the Montgomery Advertiser titled “Maycomb’s Finch”, showing “Atticus barefooted and in short pants, chained to a desk: he was diligently writing on a slate while some frivolous-looking girls yelled, “Yoo-hoo!” at him” (Lee 116). Stripping of any type of clothing is usually symbolic of shame, which is what Atticus’ bare feet and legs in the cartoon are used to portray. His diligent writing is made to seem like a pointless effort by the girls who appear to be mocking him. The Montgomery Advertiser is also trying to mock how Atticus is toiling away to represent a defendant, Tom Robinson, who has little to no hope in being freed from the accusations of rape made on him. This is not only an extremely rude gesture, but it is also a sign of prejudice, because they are basing their inferences of the future of the case simply on the fact that Tom Robinson is a Negro, and Negroes are always “the bad guys.”
Another case where unjustness is shown is when Lula is spiteful towards Calpurnia for bringing Scout and Jem along to the Negro church. Lula says, “‘I wants to know why you bringin’ white chillun to nigger church’” (Lee 119). Prejudice does not occur only when a white person looks down upon a black person; it happens vice versa as well. Black people may not be allowed to attend the same churches as white people, but that does not mean white people prohibited from black people’s churches simply cancels out the act of prejudice. Moreover, Scout and Jem’s father is working devotedly on a case for a man of the same church as Lula, so showing the children a bit of respect is the least she could have done for them. Instead, she goes as far as to protest against their coming, and she makes it clear that her grudge lies in that they are white – “‘…they got their church, we got our’n”’ (Lee 119).
Last but not least, unjustness is shown when the reverend of the First Purchase African M.E. Church, Reverend Sykes, detains everybody inside the church until ten dollars is collected as funds for Helen, Tom Robinson’s wife. Now a days, detainment as a means of collecting for charity is unthinkable. Things may have been a little different back in the day, but in the setting of the story, America is still a democracy and people certainly still have right over their possessions. Some people in the church could be in a financially poorer state than Helen; some could not care less for Helen’s poverty, and some could simply be against the concept of charity. The reverend’s intentions are good but the means by which he tries to attain the good are wrong. His actions are injustices at their peaks because they go against the basic human rights of the people in the church.
In chapter twelve, the racial climate of Maycomb is depicted in the events circling the First Purchase African M.E. Church. The church is for black people to attend and is separate from the church of the white people. This is evidence of racial segregation. Not only is the church separate, but it is also in terribly poor condition (“It was an ancient paint-peeled frame building, the only church in Maycomb with a steeple and bell, called First Purchase because it was paid for from the first earnings of freed slaves” (Lee 118)). The church cannot even afford to use hymnbooks. This shows the unsurprising reality that black people are once again in a more inferior position than white people. Lula, a member of the church, is vitriolic towards Calpurnia for bringing along Scout and Jem to a black-person church, and bluntly states that they are white children and that they have their own church to go to; a clear display of the tension between the races. Also, Calpurnia talks in “nigger-talk” at church, even when she is fully educated to speak “proper” English. She explains that if she did otherwise she would seem out of place. This shows the divided language of the black and white people, and how their cultures diverge so much that to practice something of the other culture would seem unacceptable. Considering that Maycomb is a tiny place, this stark division line of cultures is sure to emphasize the air of tension and noticeable segregation. From this, we learn that Calpurnia is a character developed from a fusion of two opposing cultures. She stays with the Finches, all the while maintaining her black identity. Her speaking “normally” at home and “nigger-talk” at church among fellow black people shows how adaptable she is to both. This chapter also shows that Calpurnia is a person who holds values similar to Atticus; she acknowledges the existence of racism but she does not believe in it. She defends the children against a fellow black woman because she knows her priorities lie with Scout and Jem, even though they are white; Atticus is defending Tom Robinson, a black man, because his moral duties are more important to him than what people of the county will come to think of him.
“‘I felt Calpurnia’s hand dig into my shoulder. ‘What you want, Lula?’ she asked, in tones I had never heard her use. She spoke quietly, contemptuously.
‘I wants to know why you bringin’ white chillun to nigger church.’
‘They’s my comp’ny,’ said Calpurnia. Again I thought her voice strange: she was talking like the rest of them.
‘Yeah, an’ I reckon you’s comp’ny at the Finch house durin’ the week.’
A murmur ran through the crowd. “Don’t you fret,” Calpurnia whispered to me, but the roses on her hat trembled indignantly.
When Lula came up the pathway toward us Calpurnia said, ‘Stop right there, nigger.’
Lula stopped, but she said, ‘You ain’t got no business bringin’ white chillun here – they got their church, we got our’n. It is our church, ain’t it, Miss Cal?’”
This dialogue displays an act of heroism on Calpurnia’s part when she defends Scout and Jem against the scorn of Lula. It shows that she is no advocate of racism because she knows that her priorities lie with the children regardless of the fact that they are white. However, the community she is living in is not completely devoid of racial prejudice yet; Lula states bluntly that she has a problem with Scout and Jem coming to their church because they are white, and white people have their separate churches. It also shows how Calpurnia is a part of two different cultures. She speaks “normal” English when she is with the Finches and talks in “nigger-talk” when she is around other black people. This shows that the communities of the black and white people of Maycomb are still divided by the most obvious social barrier of language.
“When they saw Jem and me with Calpurnia, the men stepped back and took off their hats; the women crossed their arms at their waists, weekday gestures of respectful attention. They parted and made a small pathway to the church door for us. Calpurnia walked between Jem and me, responding to the greetings of her brightly clad neighbors.”
This passage is a very symbolic representation of Calpurnia’s character in the story. Calpurnia is walking through the door in the dead center of Scout and Jem, who are white children, and some black and white women. In the same manner Calpurnia stands at the mixing point of two cultures – the black and white cultures of the community. Scout and Jem are closest to her, just as they are nothing short of family to her and one of her first priorities. The black men and women showing gestures of respect to Scout and Jem are evidence that even though the community is not completely devoid of racism, people of different races still find each other tolerable and will show respect when respect is shown in return.