“Until but are present in many conflicts
“Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men’s skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.”-Lyndon B. Johnson (36th President of the United States).
One of the central components in the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, was the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man wrongfully accused of rape in the small American town of Maycomb County in the 1930s. Because of the segregation and prejudice heavily promoted during that time, he was convicted of the crime despite zero evidence against him and the careful and captivating defense by Atticus Finch. Boo Radley was a man who had been ostracized by his community and forced to stay inside his house, making him a recluse, only causing more and more rumors to be spread about him, adding to his notoriety in Maycomb County. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee writes in way that shows how justice and fairness are not so clearly black and white, showing how they are not the same concepts, but are present in many conflicts in the town of Maycomb.
Justice may not seem like an easy concept to believe in, especially in Maycomb, but it is because of Atticus that Scout and Jem continue to believe in it so scrupulously. It is seen throughout the novel that he has unwavering morals and believes in justice. Atticus believes in the obviously-flawed justice system because he sees the good in people and is incredibly compassionate. One example where you can see this in the novel is when Scout makes an observation about a book character that can parallel with Boo Radley: “‘…
Atticus, he was real nice…”Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.” (p.376) Another quote that shows the extent of his compassion is, “Jem, see if you can stand in Bob Ewell’s shoes a minute. I destroyed his last shred of credibility at that trial, if he had any to begin with.
..So if spitting in my face and threatening me saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating, that’s something I’ll gladly take.
He had to take it out on somebody and I’d rather it be me than that houseful of children out there. You understand?”(p.292-293) The final quote that shows his belief in the justice system is, “But there is one way in which all men are created equal…That institution, gentlemen, is a court.”(p.274) Scout and Jem may have not continued to believe in justice and fairness and the value of holding onto those ideals when everyone around them thought in such a narrow-minded, discriminatory way if it wasn’t for Atticus’ steadfast belief in those concepts and his lessons to them both, because he wants them to value justice and fairness.
Justice can be seen as a very clear concept in To Kill A Mockingbird and is plainly shown that it is absent from Tom Robinson’s case, however a version of justice is seen in terms of Boo Radley’s, and potentially because of that, Tom Robinson’s as well. “The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it — whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash” (pg 220). Atticus says this to Jem after Jem is distraught by the jury’s guilty verdict, but even though Atticus acknowledges the unfairness in the court system and the absence of justice, he advises Jem to treat others with fairness even in the face of adversity. “To my way of thinkin’, Mr.
Finch, taking the one man who’s done you and this town a great service an’ draggin’ him with his shy ways into the limelight- to me, that’s a sin..”(p.369-370) This quote is spoken by Heck Tate after telling Atticus that Bob Ewell had been killed, and not by Jem, but in reality, by Boo Radley. Heck also argued that Bob Ewell had not been killed, but fell on his own knife. Boo Radley got justice for himself because it was revealed to the Finches that he was actually an incredibly kind person and he had only killed Bob to protect Jem and Scout.
Also, in a way, Boo had also found justice for Tom Robinson because the man whose testimony sent him to jail and eventually his death, was killed. So, you can see that justice was not something Tom Robinson got to actually experience, but Boo Radley had helped him gain another form of it, and found justice for himself as well.Fairness is yet another prominent concept in To Kill A Mockingbird that has a debatable definition and that is because it is both present and absent in Tom Robinson’s case, as well as Boo Radley’s. Tom Robinson was a black man who helped on a farm in Maycomb County and he helped his neighbors, and he was by and large a respectable, amiable, and accommodating man. However, once he was accused of rape, that didn’t matter and he was immediately seen as guilty without a second glance. “‘The only thing we’ve got is a black man’s word against the Ewells’.
The evidence boils down to you-did-I didn’t. The jury couldn’t possibly be expected to take Tom Robinson’s word against the Ewells’….'” (p.
90) However, he did have Atticus as his lawyer and he was extremely competent as a lawyer and in trying to acquit him. So, you could see that fairness was absent from the beginning because the odds were stacked against him because of his race, but there was a slight sense of fairness because he had an extremely well-prepared and intelligent defense lawyer and the judge also wasn’t incredibly racially-biased. You could also look at the cover-up of Bob Ewell’s murder as another time where the definition of fairness was questionable. Any reader of the novel would see that it was fair because in a way, Mr.Ewell deserved it for sending Tom to jail and ultimately his death, but if you were to look at the grand scheme of things, you would be left wondering whether or not it was fair for Boo Radley to not be sent to jail after his murder of Bob Ewell. Some could look deeper into the situation and wonder, “What would Heck Tate have done if it had been a black man who had killed Robert to protect the children, would he have still covered it up?”However, as readers, we know more about how horrible of a man Bob Ewell was and how kindhearted and innocent Boo Radley is, and there would be no question as to whether or not Boo Radley’s escape from punishment was fair. In conclusion, after analyzing the concepts of justice and fairness in To Kill a Mockingbird, it is clear to see that Harper Lee was showing how the definitions of both ideas were not clear-cut, and, although they are conflicting concepts, are integral components to the novel.
Justice is a difficult idea to continue to believe in, in Maycomb of all places, but Scout and Jem continue to believe in it because of Atticus who never seems to fail at showing compassion towards others and seeing the good in everybody around him. Secondly, justice is clearly absent from Tom Robinson’s immediate case, but there is a nuanced version of justice for both Boo Radley and Tom Robinson towards the end of the book. Furthermore, fairness is a concept that is both absent and present in Tom Robinson’s and Boo Radley’s stories. In conclusion, justice and fairness are conflicting elements in To Kill a Mockingbird which Harper Lee writes about articulately and by reading the novel, your definitions of both justice and fairness are transformed and you can distinctly see that justice and fairness are not so black and white after all.”There is no true peace without fairness, truth, justice, and solidarity.” -Pope John Paul II