Women and Social Change in Harper Lee

Heaper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ was first published in the sass’s which was an era famous for radical change in the United States both culturally and politically as bit by bit both women and African Americans were gaining power In a society predominantly governed by rich, white men. ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ can almost be regarded as a form of propaganda In favor of women’s rights as well as those of the African American community. Although things were changing, Harper Lee still needed to be careful as to how she got her message across.

Cleverly, she manages to get way with the things she says, using the medium of fictional characters, such as Miss Maude or California, and more Importantly Innocent children, for example Scout, In order to give the novel a sense of realism however, there are many characters who do not advocate this type of social change such as the Lowell family or, In some aspects, Aunt Alexandra. In a sense, Scout is essentially the personification of the social change to come and a model society.

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Her naivety due mostly to her youth enables her to interact with the community without prejudice. When Gem recounts to Scout what he thinks about the efferent social classes in Macomb, discriminating between ‘regular’ people and the Negroes’, Scout responds with, “Ana, Gem, I think there’s Just one kind of folks. Folks. ” Although neither she nor Gem realism it this is a deeply profound quote because in it’s simplest form she is saying that everybody is equal.

Although brushed off by most adults in ;To Kill A Mockingbird’ as immaturity, Scout’s thoughts could be viewed as a form of maturity because, unlike many key members of the community, she does not worry about inconsequential and superficial matters such as sex or race but connives their attitude and their character. Scout also has a very inquisitive mind and unlike most children her age, she does not simply blindly agree with tradition, she questions everything she is told and everything she does.

It is likely that a lot of these qualities come from the role models in her life including Miss Maude and California. When it comes to being a role model for Scout and Gem, Miss Maude Is the perfect woman to look up to. More importantly for Scout because as she lost her mother, she needs a positive female in her life to aspire to. Miss Maude Is Gem and Scout’s favorite adult among the community because she treats everyone she meets with respect unless they give her a reason not to.

This respect extends even to children and members of the black community. She explains to Scout what Attic’s meant when he said it was a sin to kill a mockingbird, “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy… That’s why It Is a sin to kill a mockingbird”. She Is very alike to Attic’s and holds similar principles and views on how society should be. In developing the mockingbird metaphor, she helps Scout to learn about what Is eight and what Is wrong. With the loss of their mother at a young age, It Is up to discipline the children.

She is especially important for Scout because, being a girl, she needs a female role model to look up to and emulate. With Attic’s being particularly laid back it is California who reprimands the children when they do wrong. She provides discipline and support for Scout which are both important aspects of a child’s life. In the book Scout describes California showing affection towards her; ‘California bent down and kissed me. I ran along, wondering what had come over her’. This exemplifies the love California offers the children as well as all the discipline even if Scout fails to recognize it.

It is also important that the children experience the African American culture in order to fully understand who these people are and the injustice they have been through. With this in mind, California takes Scout and Gem to her church on what could be represented as an educational trip. Cal takes them there to show them first hand what the black community is really like in Macomb as oppose to the negative stories and rumors the children have probably heard from their friends. Another important influence in Scout’s life and on the community is Aunt Alexandra.

However, her effect on Scout’s life can be regarded as slightly negative as her social standpoint and beliefs are almost completely opposite as to those of which Attic’s shares with Miss Maude. Aunt Alexandra is a fiercely traditional and family orientated. She represents Macomb’s conservative society which is based strongly around an unjust social hierarchy. Her traditional views often lead to arguments between her and Scout. For instance when Scout asks Aunt Alexandra why she wont allow her to go and play with Walter she replies eternal, “Because-?he-?is-?trash, that’s why you can’t play with him.

I’ll not have you around him, picking up his habits and learning Lord-knows-what”. She is so caught up in the superficial image of her family that she won’t even let children of two separate social classes play together. This causes Scout to dislike her Aunt as throughout her entire life she had been taught by Attic’s and her other female role models to respect everyone and treat them as equals. Although often forgotten about in history, women play an increasingly important role in all our lives.

Although any of Macomb community’s women choose to abstain from making an impact on society a small few such as Miss Maude decide to make a difference. They do this by influencing the future generations and educating them so as to enable them to do more in life. There are many people in Macomb that influence society but in particular that influence Scout. Some positively and some negatively. Each person contributes to her wealth of knowledge, however, in the end, it is up to Scout and the rest of her generation to form their own opinion and change society and the way things are for women.

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Sarah
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