Marxism: To Kill a Mockingbird

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An analysis and review of Lee's to kill a mocking bird

Harper Lee’s novel, "To Kill A Mocking Bird" is one that depicts the concept of Marxist due to the manner which the society of its characters is divided into two social classes: the rich and the poor. Lee employs the symbolism of a "Mockingbird" to capture the innocence, love, and harmlessness of some human beings. She expresses however goes ahead to unravel the concealed unseen side full of social injustices and prejudice towards the poor. Essentially, context of the story borrows a lot from the class conflicts some precipitated by race predominant in the South during the 1930s. She captures, through Marx’s theory, the poverty and racial conflicts and the Scottsboro case, Vaudine Maddox’s rape and lynching of Dan Pippen and two companions of 1931 to 1933. Going Marxist, character like Atticus, being a renowned lawyer in Maycomb town, is influential in the society, thus in the upper class that many other characters only dream of. He is socially and economically advantaged than do poor whites like Walter Cunningham, mentally challenged eccentrics like Boo Radley, or hapless African Americans like Tom Robinson. Scout asks Atticus, ‘are we poor as Cunninghams?’, but Atticus replies, ‘not exactly,’ (pp. 25). The Ewell's and the Cunningham in the dreaded lower class in the society and have been termed as the whites in the bin. The Cunninghams have to pay debts through farm produce, ‘I’d like to pay cash for you services but between the mortgage and the entailment…’ (pp. 28)

Boo Radley is presented as a mockingbird. But being poor he becomes a victim of the upper class’s oppression the poor, an aspect Marx predicts of the two social classes. He is emotionally maimed and his ambitions die in the face of racial discrimination in a society where economically incapacitated blacks are regarded ‘useless’ by a majority of the rich whites. Marxist argues that the upper class invents beliefs and philosophies that obsess the poor thus preventing themselves from working towards breaking themselves from poverty. Marx holds that the rich capitalizes on some religious teaching like ‘blessed are the poor, for they shall inherit the kingdom of God’ to instill in the poor the belief that ‘earthly’ wealth is useless. It is believed in Maycomb that mocking birds are good and that ‘they do nothing to us… It is a sin to "Kill A Mocking Bird", (pp. 70). When this is a teaching that conforms to Marx thinking on religion, since while Boo’s innocence is easily proven by Atticus and Link Deas during his case hearing, he is denied by many in the jury simply because he is black. He is later found guilty and convicted of a crime that he never committed. Just like Marxist observes in his legendary theory, the law in Maycomb favors the upper while it is used as a broom to systematically sweep the poor out of the society. Boo is betrayed by the law of his own county by refusing to believe he was innocent despite all the evidence to his favor, because he is black and poor. Atticus tells the jury, "I just want the whole lot of you to know one thing now. That boy's worked for me eight year and I ain't had a peck o' trouble outa him...’ (pp. 75) Scout despises the poor, a characteristic of the upper class, he wonders why the Cunninghams are not able to pay cash. He wonders, ‘why does he pay with stove wood and turnip greens?’ (pp. 76)

Atticus is characteristic of a capitalist detailed in the Marxist theory. He does not work, but relies on the cheap labor of the people around him like the family to enrich himself. Scout says, ‘he doesn’t do anything. Atticus doesn’t drive a dump truck for the county, he isn’t sheriff, doesn’t farm or work in a garage or anything worth mentioning…’ (pp. 78) Atticus insists that family must pay while still he says of them, ‘the Cunninghams are the country folks and the depression hits them hardest’, (pp. 79).