‘to kill a mockingbird’ by harper lee: analysis

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  • 7/29/2019 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Analysis


    C U L M I N A T I N G P R O J E C T # 2 : I N T R I N S I C

    H E R O E S

    Prepared for: Ms. Joy Bell

    Prepared by: Favour Nerrise, C1Date: December 22, 2012

  • 7/29/2019 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Analysis



    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a text with very strong morals, especially

    the classic tale of good versus evil in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. Set in the

    South of the US, Maycomb, Alabama during the 1930s the text tells a story of a decent

    Negro man, Tom Robinson, being wrongly accused of the rape of a red-necked white

    girl. He was wrongly accused for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is

    also of a widowed hard working father, Atticus Finch, who as a lawyer rises above the

    prejudice of local Maycomb society to defend this black man in court against a more or

    less racist town of people, stuck with the idea that Negroes are simply inferior and a

    different breed of people to all white folk. The novel clearly sets up most characters as

    either a hero, or a villain through unconventional ways without looking at the obvious

    choice of the man with the gun (149). Although Atticus seems to be the clear hero in

    the story, some other improbable heroes are evident such as Mrs. Dubose and the Finch

    children. The one thing that raises them to hero status is also the one thing that hurts them

    so much. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee portrays true heroes, such as

    Atticus and his children, as people who persevere through hardships even though

    they know that they will lose.

    In the dictionary, a hero is described as an object of extreme admiration and

    devotion, an idol. A hero is usually the core character of a text; a hero is a character who

    throughout a novel constantly emphasizes the texts central themes or morals, is

    courageous, and puts others before him/herself. Intrinsic is used to describe an object or

    subject of great internal value, hence genuine, or true.

  • 7/29/2019 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Analysis


    The Finch children begin to learn the meaning of a true hero and begin to show it

    themselves. Scout, still at a young age does not fully understand the meaning of a true

    hero, but at the request of her father, becomes an example of one. At school, Scout is

    widely known for her quick temper and ability to get in fights. When Atticus took the

    case, Scout got in a lot more fights to not only openly defend her honor, but to defend her

    familys as well. However, Atticus confronts her and tells her to hold her head up high

    and keep those fists down, which upsets Scout (101). The following day, Scout decides

    to listen to Atticus and when challenged by Cecil Jacobs, Scout decides the walk away.

    Children begin to call her a coward and laugh at her but Scout keeps her head up high.

    Even though she knows that kids will insult her, Scout goes through with it anyways. Jem

    also becomes an example of a hero when he is at the jailhouse with the Sarum mob.

    Despite being severely outnumbered, Jem decides to stand by his father and defend the

    door of the jailhouse. Armed with guns and other weapons, the Sarum mob can seriously

    hurt Jem, but he does not care. All that matters to him is that he stands by his father and

    supports what he believes in. This just shows that true heroes do not have to be old and

    wise, and do not have to make huge sacrifices. They just need to stand up for their beliefs

    in times where there is no support whatsoever.

    An unlikely hero in the book is Mrs. Dubose, who strongly overcame her morphine

    addiction. At first, Mrs. Dubose is seen as an evil and prejudiced character that hates Jem

    and Scout. Atticus reminds them to see it from her point of view before judging her,

    which leads to them learning about her drug addiction. Mrs. Dubose needed the children

  • 7/29/2019 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Analysis


    to help her through it, yet she suffered in silence. Moreover, she was very ill and close to

    dying. The real courage came from the fact that although she knows that she will die, she

    still tries to overcome her addiction, no matter how painful and difficult it is. Atticus

    description of true heroes is when you know youre licked before you begin but you

    begin anyway and you see it through no matter what (149). In the end, Mrs. Dubose is

    able to die honorably and free from her demons. Even though it did not matter much, it

    was still important to her, and that is what makes her a true hero.

    Another undermined hero in To Kill a Mockingbird is Calpurnia. Although mostly

    viewed as a housekeeper, she is a very significant character especially as a mother figure

    to the Finch children. Calpurnia displayed heroic moments when she took the courage of

    knocking on everyones door when there was a loose, mad dog roaming the streets, and

    when she defended Jean-Louise and Jeremy at her church against Luna. In the rural

    South, it was considered inappropriate for a Negro to visit a white folks house unless

    invited; yet, she did what she considered right while dejecting the possible consequences.

    In addition, Calpurnia took Jeremy and Jean Louise to her church while knowing Aunt

    Alexandra will not be pleased. At her church, Luna, a Negro troublemaker, protested

    about her bringing white chillun to a Negro church, but she stands up for them and says

    they are her compny (158).

    Atticus Finch is the intrinsic hero of the book because he takes the biggest risk,

    despite knowing that he will definitely lose. Atticus shows in many cases, the definition

    of a true hero but no situation was more important than the Tom Robinson trial. In

    Maycomb, the thought of taking a Negros word over a white mans is ludicrous to the

  • 7/29/2019 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Analysis


    citizens, especially over a matter as serious as a black man raping a white woman.

    Regardless of this information, Atticus still takes Tom Robinsons case and tries to make

    as big of a difference as possible. When Scout asks him if he thinks that he will win the

    case, Atticus calmly replies No, honey (101). Atticus goes on to explain that Simply

    because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to

    win (101). Atticus believes that just because it is unlikely that he will win, does not

    mean he has to give up before trying. In the weeks before the trial, the Finch family had

    to endure huge amounts of discrimination because of the case. Atticus specifically

    received discrimination from people such as Mrs. Dubose and his own sister. It even went

    as far as his nephew saying that Hes ruinin the family and that they will not be able

    to walk the streets anymore (110). Through all these hardships, Atticus remains strong

    and focuses on his goal, no matter how tough it is. In his closing statements, Atticus pleas

    to the jury in a manner that the children have never seen before: His voice had lost its

    aridity, its detachment (271). He was not speaking as a professional, he was pleading

    from his heart for them to abandon their set biases. He knows in his heart that they will

    not, but that does not stop him from trying. Even Scout knows deep down that the verdict

    will be guilty, when she compares watching Atticus efforts to watching Atticus walk

    down the street, raise a rifle to his shoulder and pull the trigger, but watching all the time

    knowing that the gun was empty (282). This metaphor explains that Scout knows all

    along that Tom Robinson will be judged guilty and sees that Atticus is trying so hard for

    no reason. When the verdict actually comes and unanimously finds Tom Robinson guilty,

    Atticus has nothing to do but feel proud that he might have made a difference. This after

    all, is all he could possibly have done.

  • 7/29/2019 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Analysis


    Heroes come in many forms, whether it is a soldier in the war or an old lady

    overcoming an addiction. Harper Lee believes that intrinsic heroes are not the ones with

    the guns but the ones who persevere, even though they know that they will lose. Brave

    does not even begin to describe the people who go through so much pain for a lost cause.

    The universal image of a hero is a young physically able man who uses his strength to

    solve problems. In To Kill a Mockingbird, the heroes come in many shapes and sizes,

    from a frail old lady to a twelve year old boy. This just goes to show, that in our world,

    anyone can be a hero and everyone should be respected for his or her efforts.

  • 7/29/2019 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Analysis



    eNotes. Who is the true hero in To Kill a Mockingbird?

    2009. 20 Dec. 2012. < http://www.enotes.com/to-kill-a-mockingbird/q-and-a/who-true-


    Kaylee. "To Kill a Mockingbird Essay: True Heroes"

    5 April 2009. 20 Dec. 2012. .

    Lee, Harper. To Kill A Mockingbird. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 1960.

    SparkNotes. To Kill A Mockingbird.

    13 December 2012. 20 December 2012




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