Theme Of Innocence And Corruption In To Kill A Mockingbird


In the novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee utilizes the characters to construct the theme of innocence and corruption. The trials in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama of an accused African American man, Tom Robinson, is the main focus of the community when a white man, Atticus Finch, steps up to the plate to defend him. The series of events from the time leading up to the trials and after lead to the overall destruction of the younger members of the community’s innocence, mostly the Finch children. Lee uses many different situations in order to aid the maturing process of the children’s minds. The eventual realization of the racism and inequality within the community ends in the corruption of the children’s innocent thinking.

The reader can see that Scout’s innocent thinking in relation to stereotypes within the town represent the naive thoughts that consume most children. Lee uses Scout to portray the innocent thoughts of a child. Scout realizes that her teacher may not understand the role stereotypes play in the town when she says, “‘Walter’s one of the Cunninghams, Miss Caroline.’ ‘I beg your pardon, Jean Louise?’”(17). As Jean Louise, also known as Scout, begins to explain to the new teacher in town about the Cunnigham’s situation, she comes to the realization that her teacher may not understand what she is saying. The innocent thinking of Scout is shown throughout the explanation and result of the situation. Stereotypes within Maycomb play a critical role in the reactions people have towards them. Harper Lee uses this dialogue to aid the reader in understanding how the children originally thought before being exposed to the reality of the world. This event is just the beginning of the children eventually being exposed to serious matters of concern within their town.

The innocence of the children play hand in hand with stereotypes and many other naive thoughts due to a lack of understanding. Atticus had told his family that he had decided to defend Mr.Robinson in the trials, but Scout specifically did not understand why he was doing so. After her father telling her what he had decided to take on, her questions him, leading to Atticus purely saying, “‘I’m simply defending a Negro- his name’s Tom Robinson’”(68). Atticus’ explanation as to why he is defending Tom Robinson in the rape allegation trials opens the eyes of his children, especially Scout, to the racist community within Maycomb. He is not expected to defend Mr.Robinson, but he makes it a point to Scout and Jem that they should do what they see as correct no matter what anyone else says. The situation above brings Scout to the realization that the whole community is not sunshine and rainbows, but can truly be crude, essentially corrupting her innocence. The author’s use of this dialogue to represent how innocent the children are is crucial in the overall understanding of how their innocence is eventually corrupted by the harsh reality of the world. 

The trials cause the children to mature and slowly lose their innocence as the trials continue. Many citizens of Maycomb expected a negative outcome from the trials due to their racist mindsets, but Jem did not as seen when, "Jem was jumping in excitement, "We've won, haven't we?"(257). Jem's outlook on the trial is much more positive than anyone else within the courtroom. He does not quite understand how factors such as skin color and stereotypes play in the trial, no matter the evidence or strong points made. His innocence is eventually corrupted by the harsh reality of the world they live in by surrounding adults, maturing the children and helping them understand how humanity functions around them. The trial only showed the children the harsh reality of the community they live in, helping them realize the significance of the case. Throughout the trials, the children realize why the case was so important to their father, although all odds were against Mr.Robinson. Harper Lee shows the reader the character’s development through learning about the world's racist and stereotypical ideologies, which is crucial for the reader and character’s understanding of the trials' effects. The harsh and shocking reality of the world the children live in slowly revealed itself through many aspects of the trials, consuming their naive thoughts. 

Ultimately, the acknowledgement of the prejudice and disparity present in the community ends with the complete corruption of the youngster’s harmless wondering. Throughout the hearings, the children are forced to mature due to the content they were exposed to. The events helped them see the things they were once blind to. Racism, social inequality, and many more related issues were never of concern of the children until hearing the final verdict of the case.  The new ideas introduced to the children not only broke their innocence, but matured their minds, allowing them to see the world for what it truly was.

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