Racism is an important part in the plot of Harper Lee’s famous novel To Kill A Mockingbird. There are many events in the story that would be different if people of all nationalities were treated equally. While a large paper could be written about all these potential changes, this will only break down a few of the major ones.
The first major instance of racism driving the plot is Tom Robinson’s trial. The verdict would definitely be different if Tom was white. In fact, Tom would most likely not be accused in the first place if he was white. The jury was clearly biased against him, even with all of the plot holes in Mayella’s testimony, like “No, I don’t recollect if he [Tom Robinson] hit me. I mean yes I do, he hit me.” (248) or when she didn’t answer five of Atticus’s questions in a row, despite them being easy and simple. However, when Tom gave his side of the story, he was certain about everything he said, but still nobody believed him, which continues on to the next instance.
The second point of racism influencing the plot in the book is Tom’s murder. Being a continuation on the trial, Tom is murdered because he tried to climb over the fence to escape from prison, right in front of the guards. They did give him a warning that they would shoot is he didn’t stop, but still he ends up with 17 gunshot wounds. They should’ve given him a bit more time to react, as it is stated by Atticus that “…if he’d [Tom Robinson] had two good arms he’d have made it…” (315). They would most likely have not responded like this if he was white and his offense was the “raping” of a white woman (even though the evidence presented is far more in his favor). Atticus also believes that this was too much and that they shouldn’t have reacted so harshly, even if it turns out that he was a rapist.
The final major racism-influenced part of To Kill A Mockingbird is Mr. Ewell’s attempt to kill Jem and Scout. His motive for doing so was that he was still angry at Atticus for defending Tom. So the chain reaction is as follows: if Tom was white, he wouldn’t have been accused for rape, Atticus wouldn’t have had to defend him in court, Mr. Ewell wouldn’t have been angry with him, and he wouldn’t have had a motive to attack Jem and Scout. The kids barely got out of there, and they only did because Scout had her costume on and Ewell accidentally stabbed himself before he could finish the job, as explained by Mr. Tate, “[Bob Ewell] stabbed himself through that soft stuff between his ribs. His whole weight drove it in.” (367). Even then, the incident left Jem’s elbow broken, requiring him to stay in bed for a few days.
In short, racism is a very important part in To Kill A Mockingbird. Although only a few big changes have been presented, there are many, many other possible occurrences and outcomes of this novel that could have taken place if racism was not as big of a factor. Maybe if Tom was white, the entire second half of the book wouldn’t need to exist, since it and lots parts before would be changed completely.
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