Gender Prejudice and COURAGE in To Kill a Mockingbird: (Exam)ples & Quotes Flashcard Example #69818

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Scout Battles the Status Quo
Harper Lee makes the role of women and the issue of gender prejudice extremely prevalent in this novel set in the 1950’s in Maycomb, Alabama.

The protagonist and narrator, Scout Finch, is a young girl who does not conform to the gender stereotypes of her time. In this patriarchal society, women are traditionally associated with looking their best to please men, being submissive and maintaining the domestic sphere.

As the novel begins, we understand that in Scout’s mind, girls can’t play boy’s games, cannot use foul language, and in general must be uptight and extremely careful about how they act at all times.

According to Scout, ‘Maycomb is a place where ‘ladies’ bathed before noon, after their three o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.’

Scout is having a difficult time conforming to the rules of the social decorum prescribed for ‘ladies’ in Maycomb.

Aunt Alexandra works tirelessly to help her make the leap from tomboy to a woman. Scout resists. Aunt Alexandra would prefer that Scout play with small stoves and tea sets, however, Scout puts up a fight every step of the way. Aunt Alexandra has moved in because, she says, ‘We decided it best for you to have some feminine influence.’

Playing with the Boys
This, of course, is the last thing Scout wants. She has grown up around Atticus Finch, Scout’s father, and Jem, her brother, and she wants to be like them. She thinks being called a girl is an insult. Jem constantly gives her a hard time for being a girl and insists she act like one, telling her, ‘It’s time you started bein’ a girl and acting right!’

Atticus is fine with Scout being who she is, even if it means dressing in overalls and acting like a tomboy. He seems to hold the minority opinion. Their neighbour, Mrs Dubose, for example, makes her displeasure known. ‘What are you doing in those overalls? You should be in a dress and camisole, young lady!’

Harper Lee brings gender roles for young girls to light, providing voices on both sides of the argument. Atticus Finch believes she should be free to choose her path in life and that it will all work out as it should. Others in the town have different opinions and think that Scout should be forced to take on the gender role assigned to her.

Southern Roles
When the trial gets started, Atticus and Scout have a conversation about why Miss Maudie, or someone like her can’t serve on a jury. Scout is incredulous when she realizes it is because she is a woman. Atticus gives her this explanation: ‘I guess it’s to protect our frail ladies from sordid cases like Tom’s.’ Then he adds in a bit of humor with: ‘I doubt if we’d ever get a complete case tried–the ladies’d be interrupting to ask questions.’ Atticus and the other men in the town believe women are too talkative and that they would slow down the process. Similarly, it’s widely assumed that most women don’t understand football and ask too many questions during games.

The white ladies of Maycomb are seen as shallow and incapable of relating to what is happening to the black women in the town during Tom’s trial. When the women gather at the Finches for the Missionary Meeting, they are able to open their hearts for the needs of people halfway around the world, but they can’t see the needs of the black community. They show their true colors when they expect their black servants to carry on and be strong, in spite of the fact that Tom is put to death.

Scout Changes Her Tune
When the news of Tom’s death reaches Aunt Alexandra and Miss Maudie, Scout notices that they are rocked and upset, but they hide their feelings and carry on. Here we see Scout take her first steps in her evolution from tomboy to woman when she keeps on as though nothing has happened. She says, ‘If Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I.’ Scout comes to understand that the role of women is far more complex than she imagined. She grasps that there is a social order that is highly developed and that there is far more to it than just ‘smelling sweet.’
Theme of Courage
Courage is a prevalent theme in To Kill a Mockingbird. The South during the 1930s was a place of rules, traditions, and expectations, and people that challenged this were ridiculed and cast out. This was particularly true for the racial divide between whites and blacks. Scout and Jem have a hard time understanding this, especially when they are treated poorly after their father takes on the Robinson case. But Atticus uses these as teachable moments to show his children how to handle situations that require self-control and courage. Atticus never places blame on whites or blacks because, as he teaches his children, you never know what another person is going through. Let’s take a closer look at how the theme of courage appears in the novel by examining some quotes.
Courage Quotes
Mrs. Dubose is Jem and Scout’s neighbor. They have to pass her house on their way to town and hated when she was out on her porch. She was old, mean, and never had anything nice to say. ‘Jem and Scout hated her,’ Harper Lee writes. But whenever Atticus saw her he tipped his hat and said the most pleasant things to her, even when she had nothing nice to say back. Scout cannot understand how her father can be so nice to such a mean old woman, and yet he shows courage by being the bigger person, especially in front of his children. In Chapter 11, Scout says, It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.

After hearing Mrs. Dubose call their father trash for defending Tom Robinson, Jem tore up her camellia bushes in anger. There was no getting past Atticus, and when he asked why he did it, Jem told him what she said. In Chapter 11, Scout and Jem question their father’s decision to defend Tom Robinson saying that most white people who are upset think they are right and Atticus is wrong. Atticus’ response is simple: he has to live with his decisions before he can care about what others think. Even if it is difficult or different than what others would do, Atticus has to be true to himself. He explains to Scout and Jem, They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions… but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.

Jem’s punishment is that he must go over to Mrs. Dubose’s house and read to her every afternoon. After a month, Mrs. Dubose passes away and Atticus explains to Jem that she was addicted to morphine. She knew she was going to die and didn’t want to be addicted to anything when she died. The time Jem read to her was the time she was weaning herself off of the morphine. Although she may have had completely different views than Atticus, she showed such bravery in the way she wanted to leave this world, free of anything holding her back. This is what Atticus wanted Jem to learn from spending time with her. In Chapter 11, Atticus says to Jem, I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.

After a guilty verdict is delivered, Jem and Scout’s visions of truth and justice are shattered. Jem cannot understand why the world would be so unfair. In Chapter 22, Miss Maudie invites Jem and Scout over for some cake and sees how upset Jem is. She tells Jem that although it seems unfair, brave people were put on this earth to help make other people see the truth, though it takes time. Atticus is one of these brave people. She explains, There are some men in this world who are born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father’s one of them.

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