To Kill A Mockingbird Research Paper Thesis

Outsiders in "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee

The story takes place in the 1930s in the small town Maycomb, Alabama. Maycomb is a sleepy, static place where neither the people nor their attitudes towards each other have changed much in the last years. In this town Atticus Finch, a lawyer, is told to defend the coloured Tom Robinson who is under suspicion of having raped Mayella Ewell, the daughter of an extremely poor white drunkard. The case naturally attracts a lot of attention and splits the population in different parts. In this scenery one notices quite a lot of people who are in some way or another different from the main part of the population, whether by race, by their character or their way of living.

The first and most important lone wolf in the story is Atticus Finch. His decision to defend a Negro in a state where the majority of the population remembers longingly the times before the civil war shows how courageous he is. He has got a very high standard of morality and his behaviour is driven by reason. If he decides a certain course of action is right (as defending Tom Robinson), he perseveres regardless of any threats or criticism. But he doesn't do it to look champion, he does it because his morality tells him it's the right thing to do. Atticus Finch tries to avoid any conflicts, he wants to compromise, not to marginalise. He is an extremely tolerant man and brings up his children according to his principles. He tells his children they have to see the world through the eyes of another man to understand him. And when Jem (his son) asks him something about the Radleys, their neighbours, he tells him to mind his business and let the Radleys mind theirs. He doesn't care if somebody has different views of life or lives in a different ways, he believes in everybody's right to live as he wants to. Mr Raymond, a queer fish himself, tells Scout (Atticus' daughter): "Your Pa's not a run-of- the-mill man." There he is perfectly right. Atticus Finch is in the eyes of the reader nowadays the epitome of a good man.

The only problem is that with his decision to defend Tom Robinson he makes his children outsiders, too. Jem and Scout are teased and bullied by their classmates because of their father.

The population of Maycomb is divided in its opinion of Atticus Finch. One part - the smaller one - admires him for his courage, the other one despises him for defending a "Nigger". But nobody except Bob Ewell and Mrs Dubose shows his dislike openly, for he is still a man with authority and they have got respect for him. But Atticus doesn't care what the people think of him, he knows what he does is right.

Another outsider is Arthur "Boo" Radley. He got into some trouble with the law when he was a youth and would have spent some years in the boys industrial school if his father hasn't persuaded the judge to release him under the condition that he took care his son wouldn't get into trouble again. From this time Arthur stayed locked in the house and wasn't seen by anyone except his family until one day - he was 33 by then - he drove a pair of scissors in his father's leg. But his father didn't allow him being sent to a mental hospital and so he stayed locked in the house. When the father died, his elder brother moved into the house to take care of him. Nobody really knows what a kind of man Arthur Radley is, for he hasn't been seen for many years. But of course there are some horror-stories being told in the town about him, a reaction caused by the natural human fear of the unknown. He can also be used very well as a scapegoat for various smaller crimes, as the mutilation of animals or frozen flowers. The people's superstition is fed by the stories about him, so children don't dare eating the pecan nuts that fall into the schoolyard from the tree in the Radley's garden.

Mr Dolphus Raymond is an dissident, too. His wife killed herself on the wedding-day after she had found out he had had an affair with a coloured woman. Now he lives with the Negroes, has a coloured wife and mixed children. Of course the townsfolk heartily disapprove his behaviour, but he gives them two reasons to tolerate it more or less: first, he is the owner of the River Bank and quite rich, second, he pretends to be constantly drunk. He does that to help the people find a reason for his behaviour; he knows so they can blame the alcohol. He complains about "the hell white people give coloured folks without even thinking, without even stopping to think they're people, too." He's got a similar opinion about the behaviour of the white population as Atticus Finch, whom he admires deeply. But he is not as courageous as him, he excuses his way of life with alcohol. But still he is an outcast, despised by the majority of Maycomb's population.

The next outsider is Mrs Dubose. She has been a morphine-addict for many years and always bullies Jem and Scout for their father's behaviour. She openly screams at them and insults them. When Jem loses his nerves and cuts down all her flowers he has to read to her for one month as a compensation.

Mrs Dubose always gets fits during these reading-hours, and eventually she dies. After her death Atticus explains his children that she was an extremely strong and brave woman. She wanted to die free from morphine, and she managed it. She was e very lonely woman, and although having been insulted by her many times, Atticus shows respect and even admiration for her. Everybody else would probably have preferred a painless death under the influence of morphine, but she preferred anguish and freedom.

The Cunninghams are the first example for a whole generation of outsiders, they have always been outsiders and will probably be for a long time. The Cunninghams live in the country and are very poor. What they have to pay they always pay in kind. Mr Cunningham could get a WPA-job, but he prefers to work on his land and keep his freedom, as Mrs Dubose. The children always fail school because they can't attend the whole year, they have to help their father during harvest-time. They also have got various diseases like hookworms and are undernourished. Their language is quite bad, but still they are honest and always pay for what they get. People know them and are used to them, they are respected in a way. Mr Cunningham has got his principles and sticks to them. The Cunninghams are an example for a "positive" example for a family of outsiders, in contrast to the Ewells.

The Ewells are even poorer than the Cunninghams, they live behind the garbage dump near the Negro settlement. Mr Ewell doesn't work, and he frequently spends all the money they get from the state on alcohol. The children don't go to school at all, they haven't got any friends. Their reaction to their being outcasts is aggression, which drives them only deeper to the edge of society. Violence, dirty language and insults are a way for them to compensate their inferiority complexes. They try to push themselves up a bit in the rank of society by treating the coloured population extremely bad - they try to show that they are at least white and by this better than the Negroes, although they are really bad people. The people are used to them, too, and pity and despise them at the same time. On Christmas always bring something to them. The Ewells are an example for "negative" outsiders.

Miss Caroline, Scout's teacher, is an outsider in the community for she is new and doesn't know the people in Maycomb. She is from the North, and even the children immediately have prejudices against her, for she comes from a town enemy to the south in the civil war. Miss Caroline is very naive and has still got many illusions. She has got no authority and is inferior to the children of her first class, for they have probably seen much more of real life than she has. The children in a way feel sorry for her and try to explain everything, but she is so shocked she can't accept their explanations and punishes them.

Even Dill is an outsider. He is an unwanted child, his father is dead, his mother doesn't want to be bothered by him. But he has already seen a lot of the world. As he himself says: "I'm small, but I'm old." Still he always tells stories that are not true.

Then there are the outsiders by race, the whole black community. The white population treat them as if they were still slave, as inferior beings, not even totally human. The coloured population is at the bottom of society, lives behind the garbage dump and has to do all the dirty work in Maycomb.

Even more outcast is Tom Robinson. Being black, he is supposed to have raped a white girl, what makes him even worse than his fellow Negroes in the eyes of the white inhabitants. He is a cripple, the muscles of his left arm were all torn from the bone when he caught it in a cotton gin at the age of twelve. But he is an extraordinary polite and helpful man, traits not much acknowledged by the white people. He has already been in jail before, a fact that makes him seem like a hard-line criminal in the eyes of most of the whites.

Another outsider is Calpurnia. She is treated like a white woman and even like a mother in the Finchs' house, but outside she is "only" a Negro.

In "To Kill a Mockingbird" nearly all the main characters are in their own way outsiders. The "normal" people are not much talked about, only as a group, but seldom as single characters. But there is only one example of "negative" outsiders - the Ewells - all the others are quite sympathetic to the reader. Maybe Harper Lee's intention was to show that at a closer look the outsiders of a community are often morally "better" than the ones who fall into line. Actually everybody is in some aspect an outsider, for I doubt that one man can swim with the stream in every part of life.

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The role of a thesis statement is to lay out what you will be discussing in your paper. A thesis statement does not need to be only one sentence. For an essay about Scout Finch, an appropriate thesis statement could discuss the changes that Scout undergoes throughout the story and the reasons behind the changes.

You could argue, for example, that Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbirdis much more than the story of a...

The role of a thesis statement is to lay out what you will be discussing in your paper. A thesis statement does not need to be only one sentence. For an essay about Scout Finch, an appropriate thesis statement could discuss the changes that Scout undergoes throughout the story and the reasons behind the changes.

You could argue, for example, that Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is much more than the story of a racist town fraught with ignorance and hatred. It is also the story of a young girl who is growing up in a time of great transition and confusion. Through her visits to Calpurnia's church, the wisdom bestowed to her from her father, her experiences at school, and the countless climactic events throughout the story, Scout grows as a person, learning some of the most challenging life lessons about tolerance, compassion, and hatred.

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