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To Kill A Mockingbird: A Worldview


The motion picture “To Kill A Mockingbird” released in 1962 based on the novel published in 1960 written by Nelle Harper Lee. Below are this author’s summary and analysis of the film, written in a philosophical and theological view to explain and illustrate the film’s predominant worldview. This author will first present his summary.

The motion picture takes its viewers to an imaginary town of Maycomb, Alabama. A town embedded in the Great Depression within a segregated system fueled by inequality and racism. The narrator portrays herself as Jean Finch, known throughout the movie as Scout, who lives with her brother Jem and her widowed father Atticus Finch. Atticus is portrayed throughout the movie as an ideal model of a righteous lawyer. He is given a case in which he chooses to defend an innocent African American man named Tom Robinson who is accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a young white woman. At the beginning of the movie, Jem and Scout befriend a boy named Dill, a summer vacationer. The three children spy with their unbiased, innocent eyes as onlookers to the court processions involving Tom and their father, Atticus. Throughout the movie, Mayella’s father, Bob Ewell, is portrayed as being certain of Tom’s guilty state while wanting to take unlawful vengeance out on Tom.

The narrative is interrupted by the intermittent scenes of Scout, Jem, and Dill being enthralled by Arthur “Boo” Radley, an isolated, mysterious man living across the street pledged with rumors of his “insanity.” Although the community of Maycomb is quick to recognize Boo’s insanity, they are quiet in speaking about his identity as if his presence were a threat. Later on, this understanding proved to be fueled by their own ignorance of the man. The children's curiosity about Boo is strung throughout the movie as they are portrayed as daring to get as close as possible to the presence of Boo. Jem is threatened one night at the house of Boo as a shadow of an unknown figure appears on the screen. Jem is shot at by Boo’s older brother. Two soap dolls, which “Boo” created, appear in a hole of a tree, in which a man cements in right after Jem “saves” the dolls from the hole.

The phrase “to kill a mockingbird” first surfaces in the narrative when a poor boy is invited over to eat with the Finch family, and Atticus reminisces about owning a gun in his youth. He states that his father allowed him to kill bluejays but not mockingbirds because it is a sin to kill mockingbirds as they do not hurt anything but simply sing for peoples’ enjoyment. The sublimed ethical conversation is abruptly interrupted when Atticus learns through his disturbed daughter, Scout, that her teacher accused him of wrongly teaching his daughter how to read. Confused by her teacher’s judgment, Atticus quickly seeks to comfort Scout with his statement, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…” With Scout still frustrated, Atticus teaches her about the concept of making a “compromise.” Atticus is next shown being forced to kill a “mad” dog as Sheriff Heck Tate excuses himself from the duty of killing the dog being uncomfortable about taking the dog’s life. Later, Atticus’ son, Jem, meets Tom’s son in a glaring standoff fueled by innocent curiously, only to be disturbed by the town drunk, Bob Ewell, who accuses Atticus of being a “nigger lover.” From then on, Scout and Jem become innocent victims in a name-calling crossfire, as teachers and children name Atticus as one who defends “niggers.” Once again, Scout is disturbed, and Atticus explains to Scout that he is defending a "black" for a number of reasons. “The main reason,” he says, “If I didn’t, I couldn’t hold my head up in town. I could not even tell you or Jem, not to do something again.” The following scene shows Atticus on the front porch of the jail with Tom, only to be confronted by a mob of revenge-seeking men. Scout appears on the scene, silencing the crowd of men with her innocent conversation, reminding them of innocence. The following day, the court assembles its biassed members only to convict Tom of rape despite the substantial evidence of his innocence. After the trial, Jen and Scout are attacked by a man in the same fashion as Mayella Ewell was attacked. Later, Bob Ewell is found dead by the sheriff. Bob Ewell is known to have been killed by Boo. Scout innocently holds the hand of “Boo,” thanking him for the protection he gave to her family. Trying to be unbiased in the situation, Atticus’ thinks to put his son on trial for murder while not being for sure of who murdered Bob. Sheriff Heck Tate reveals that Arthur (Boo) was the murderer but that it would be unjust for Atticus to put Arthur on trial as he was only carrying out justice. Scout agreed with the sheriff’s conclusion by mentioning that to put Arthur (Boo) on trial for murder would be like “Killing a Mockingbird.” At the end of the film, Scout is shown standing on Boo’s porch, viewing the town and her youthful state from his perspective.

This heartwarming story of a child’s worldview of innocence confronts the social norms of an unlawful and evil world with a worldview of absolute good and evil. In this author’s opinion, the two worldviews presented in the film are moderated by a child’s worldview represented in the characters of Scout, Jem, and Dill. The children’s innocence is challenged by an evil world, as the community of Maycomb condescendingly names Atticus as a “nigger lover” and a father who does not know how to teach reading properly. The boundaries of the children’s worldview of right and wrong become somewhat redrawn as Atticus, a good man who is not quick to judge anyone, teaches them about “compromise.” Although challenged, the children’s pure and unbiased worldview is maintained in the duration of the movie as they are portrayed to be in the “colored” section of the courtroom during the court processions as well as while they “interact” with “Boo.” The strongest portrayal of the children’s mediating position is found when Scout and the boys put themselves between Atticus and the angry mob, gathered by Bob Ewell, to defuse the situation with their innocence. At this point, it is important to note that these two men, Atticus Finch and Bob Ewell, symbolize two different worldviews presented in the film.

Two characters within this film symbolize goodness: Atticus Finch, the righteous and justice-seeking lawyer, and Arthur “Boo” Radley, the town’s recuse. Although Atticus fights the evil world as an ethical lawyer who hates evil, he believes that one should admire the goodness in the folks who do evil by looking at the world through their own eyes. This worldview was expressed when he stated, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Although not pluralistic nor relative, Atticus’ worldview teaches the concept of making a “compromise” (the term used by Atticus himself). Atticus’ strong worldview of right and wrong is strongly expressed in his nine-minute speech about the community’s ignorant worldview, which he said to be founded on a “lie.” He said of their view to be of “An evil assumption, that all 'Negroes' lie, that all 'Negroes' are immoral creatures, which all 'Negros' are not to be trusted around our women.” Ironically, Atticus goodness and felt need for justice bringing law clouds his judgment. It is seen at the end of the movie when Atticus expresses to the sheriff his willingness to put his own son on trial for the “murder” of Bob Ewell.

His reclusive behavior majorly expresses Boo's worldview. In this author’s opinion, Boo’s withdrawn lifestyle shows his mentality of keeping his innocence, a pure worldview of goodness maintained and uncontaminated by the evil world that lies beyond his porch. His secret giving of gifts portrays his innocence to Jem, like the soap dolls found within the tree outside of Boo’s yard. His innocence was primarily shown at the end of the movie when he carries out justice by slaying the town drunk, Bob Ewell.

Evil within the movie is main portrayed in the face of the town drunk, Bob Ewell, who is the embodiment of the prejudices of his community. Bob Ewell’s evilness and Boo’s goodness was validated when the law keeper, Sheriff Heck Tate, alluded to how Boo carried out justice when Heck stated, “Bob Ewell fell on his knife, he killed himself. There is a black man dead for no reason, and now the man responsible for it is dead… I never heard it told that it was a crime for a good citizen to do his utmost to prevent a crime… To my way of thinking, dragging him [Boo] and his shy ways into the limelight is, to me, a sin. It is a sin… I may not be that much, but I am still sheriff of this county, and Bob Ewell fell on his knife.”

With all that which has been expressed, it is clear that “To Kill A Mockingbird” has a purpose of creating a felt need for an absolute moral standard, a worldview of Boo. Boo’s reclusive behavior and his stagnate house are symbolic of his unchanging and narrow worldview of goodness and truth. Boo only left his house one time, and when he did, it was by the cover of night to bring forth justice. The favorability of Boo’s worldview is strengthened when contrasted to Atticus’ worldview, that which is somewhat compromised by interacting with an evil world. “To Kill A Mockingbird” shows us that we will continue being victims of ignorance who mystify God along with His goodness until we put ourselves on God’s “porch” to see the world how he does.

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