Analyse how a main character was developed and how this development helped you understand a main theme or issue.
In the novel To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee showed how the main character, Jeremy Finch, or normally known as Jem, was developed through his relationship with other characters, for example, his relationship with Tom Robinson, the townsfolk of Maycomb and Arthur “Boo” Radley. Through Jem's developments, Harper Lee highlighted the issue of prejudice that was endemic in Maycomb County, Alabama, during 1930s and thus helped the reader understands why Tom Robinson was finally accused for rape even though he was innocent.
Through Jem's relationship with Tom Robinson, Harper Lee emphasised the racial prejudice that was happening around Maycomb. The prejudice to the black people was due to the slavery that happened during the 16th to 19th century. Tom Robinson was accused for raping Mayella Ewell, the daughter of Bob Ewell, but later, Atticus proved that he was not guilty because Mayella was beaten on her right side, which was most likely be done by someone who was left-handed, such as Bob Ewell himself, whereas Tom Robinson's left arm was fully twelve inches shorter than his right. Tom Robinson's trial caused Jem to become more mature, as he still couldn't stop questioning why Tom Robinson was still accused, despite the fact that he was innocent. Jem was devastated by the unjust verdict and it took him a long time to understand the imperfections of people. Once, Atticus said, “In our courts, when it's a white man's word against a black man's, the white man always wins. They're ugly but those are facts of life.” This showed the reader the fact that in Maycomb County, all people had been brought up to believe that negroes are less than human, and therefore they could do anything to them, even if it was unfair.
The Tom Robinson's trial might be influenced on the Scottsboro trial, where nine black men were accused of raping two white women on a train bound for Memphis. After they were arrested, a lynch mob gathered around the jail, prepared to kill the youths. Samuel Leibowitz, a New York attorney who was pointed for this trial, once stated that based on the fact that the juries were all white, the boys could never have a fair trial. Later, one of the accusers, Ruby Bates, returned to testify in court and stated that she and Price had lied about being raped because they were afraid that they might be charged with some offense since they were homeless themselves and found on a train with other homeless men. By seeing through Jem's relationship with Tom Robinson and his trial, Harper Lee had shown the reader, the reflection of the reality that was happening in Alabama during 1930s. The reader became aware of the racial prejudice and hatred that was found in the community in Southern states of America, as this was shown from Jem's response to this issue, as a child that was growing up.
The prejudice and abomination that existed between the whites and negroes indicated that violence could break out at any time. Jem's relationship with the townfolks of Maycomb led to an idea that the issue of prejudice in Maycomb was not only a simple racial prejudice, but also the intolerant, narrow and stiff codes of behaviour that the townspeople of Maycomb wished to impose on each other. This prejudice was made all the more threatening by being portrayed as 'normal' behaviour by many characters in the book. Dolphus Raymond was considered as an outcast in the town because he was a wealthy white man who chose to live with the Negroes. Jem was shocked when he found out that Mr Raymond pretended to be an alcoholic when he actually drank Coca Cola out of the sack. “... You see they could never, never understand that I live like I do because that's the way I want to live,” said Mr Raymond. Thus, he has all kinds of false rumors spread by Maycomb surrounding his decision, but this was all made so that life became easier for him and for Maycomb folks to understand his choice. the Through Jem's relationship with Dolphus Raymond, Harper Lee presented the idea of sometimes you needed to pretend to be someone that you were not.
The issue of marginal prejudice in Maycomb County was shown through Jem's relationship with Arthur Radley, also known as Boo, one of many outcasts in Maycomb. Prejudice against Boo Radley started when Boo fell into bad crowd as a teenager and instead of being sent to industrial school, he was locked inside the court-house, which created numbers of speculations and judgments from people who lived in Maycomb, including Jem. At Jem's childhood, he sometimes amused himself by attempting to lure Boo out of the house, as Boo was the central of Jem's imagination. There were a lot of rumours about Boo, even though actually only a few people had seen him in person. Once, Jem said, “... dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that's why his hands were blood-stoned; if you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off.”
As the story unfolded, Jem showed that he was growing up. This was shown by his effort to keep on communicating with Boo through a hole where Boo left some 'gifts', like carved soap and an old and broken watch. Jem eventually realised that Boo was a gentle man, despite of what other people in their neighbourhood said about him. Along with Tom Robinson's trial, Jem's awareness of the feelings of others increases and he finally understands that Boo Radley stayed indoor because he wanted to, not because of all the criminal reasons Jem had imagined earlier. As Atticus said, “You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing in Radley porch was enough.” Through Jem, Harper Lee showed how Boo was being marginalised, discriminated and judged by the rumours that were not necessarily true. And through Jem as well, Harper Lee highlighted the most important moral lesson that should be applied in every aspects of life, which was to respect others and to never judge people unless you really knew them.
Harper Lee in her novel, To Kill A Mockingbird had succeed in developing the main character, Jeremy Finch, also known as Jem, using his relationship with the townfolks of Maycomb, Tom Robinson and Boo Radley in order to underline the issue of prejudice. Through Jem's experience, Harper Lee revealed the aspects of human nature, despite that the setting was during 1930s, the issue of prejudice would always happen in reality, but there would always be some people who would stand up for justice, such as Jem himself.
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