Innocence In Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird

1558 Words 7 Pages
William Butler Yeats wrote, “The innocent… have no enemy but time.” But is this quote necessarily true? Innocence eventually fades from humans, but is time the only factor in the loss of innocence? To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, portrays a young naïve girl named Scout and her brother Jem as they grow up in Alabama during The Great Depression. The children confront problems surrounding reputation and racism. Their father Atticus, a lawyer, is representing a black man, Tom Robinson, who is charged with raping a white woman. This case is surrounded in controversy and brings attention to the social injustices in the south. These issues cause Scout to mature drastically in a short period of time. As the book progresses, Boo Radley and …show more content…
Throughout the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, the mockingbird, a symbol of innocence, is embodied through various characters. Each character’s individual innocence evolves and is impacted in differing ways.
Scout, unaware of her innocence, rapidly matures due to the racial injustices of the town of Maycomb. Prior to the trial of Tom Robinson, Scout is naïve, self-centered, and is ignorant of her innocence. One example of her innocence occurs on the first day of school. Walter Cunningham, a poor boy, shows up to school without his lunch. The teacher offers Walter a quarter to buy lunch and tells him that he can pay her back tomorrow. The class turns to Scout to explain. Scout explains to the new teacher that Walter will not take money for lunch because of his family’s reputation of never taking anything they cannot reimburse. The teacher deems this response disrespectful and as a result, Scout gets in trouble with the teacher. Instead of owning up to her mistake, she blames Walter and proceeds to handle the situation with violence: “Catching Walter Cunningham gave me some pleasure… ‘He made me start off on the wrong foot’ ”(30). Her father, Atticus, tells Scout that to fully understand a person you
…show more content…
Tom is still killed, regardless of his blamelessness. He is an honest, hardworking man with a wife and children. Nevertheless, he is still accused of rape. He shows that he is trustworthy when questioned about his prior offenses and he answers truthfully. Atticus asks the accuser about the incidents the night of the alleged rape. She states that she was beaten around the right side of her face and raped. Tom is proven innocent by her testimony: “ ‘He hit me’… ‘Will you identify the man who raped you’…Tom Robinson… His left arm was fully twelve inches shorter than his right, and hung dead at his side”(248). Tom could not have raped the girl because if he did beat her up, her bruises would have been around the left side of her face, as Tom can only use his right arm. Tom, although proven innocent by Atticus, is convicted of rape because of his race. This depiction of racism proves that Tom was correct in believing that he has to be wary of his actions because he will be treated differently because of his race. Proof of this is Scout’s thought process after Tom’s testimony, which shows how Tom constantly has to be careful about how he acts, or he might be affected by dire consequences. Scout realizes Tom cannot hit a white woman, but running away from her advances depicts him as guilty of rape (261). As Tom is found guilty, he loses hope for justice:

Related Documents