Authors compose novels in order to highlight and confront the significant issues of their own context. Racial prejudice and the necessity of achieving justice are two key issues highlighted in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and also Montana 1948 by Larry Watson. Lee writes in the 1960s about the 1930s, and Watson writes in the 1990s about the 1940s demonstrating a time when people were persecuted for their race, gender, religion and education. These novels are crafted to provide insight of the issues experienced in society and to enlighten society’s current perceptions.
Both authors desire to educate responders about the destructive nature of prejudice that disenfranchised individuals experienced and that the corrupt actions of empowered individuals can lead to the detriment of failing to achieve justice. Through narrative voice, contextual features and character development, Lee and Watson achieve this purpose of challenging responders to confront the fundamental issues that society has disregarded. In response to the American historical context of the 1930s, To Kill A Mockingbird demonstrates the irrationality of societal attitudes society’s through a modal voice and enlightens the responders’ viewpoint.
In Atticus’s culminating statement at the trial, characterization and moral voice is displayed to enforce the power and worth of the viewpoint presented. In his direct speech, “the evil assumption – that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women…” Atticus delivers the prevalent assumption against disenfranchised individuals of the 1930s. Here, repetition, substantiated by italics, emphasizes his forceful tone in regards to the word ‘all’.
By providing a high modal voice, Lee challenges responders to realize that ‘all’ used in this situation is fallacious. While disenfranchised individuals in both texts suffer prejudice, in To Kill A Mockingbird the accused is convicted although he is not guilty, whereas in Montana 1948 the accused is enfranchised and thus seen as not guilty despite his open admission of his wrongdoings. This highlights the irrationality of adult assumptions towards individuals who are disempowered as a result of prejudice and false accusations.
Yet, in comparison to Atticus’s previous statement, he continues, “some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral… But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. ” By replacing ‘all’ with ‘some’, he suggests that being ‘immoral’ and deceitful is within every human being. Here, Lee instigates responders to reflect on society’s current perceptions regarding these false assumptions towards disenfranchised individuals and enlightens them to amend their viewpoints.
Similarly in Montana 1948, Watson expresses prejudice and bias opinions as part of the common views of society and demonstrates the inequitable prerogatives of enfranchised individuals. The prevailing attitude of the 1940’s of Indians is that they were inferior to whites and therefore discriminated against, abused and isolated from the white community. Racist attitudes are imposed as the narrator, David, states that his father believed Indians were “ignorant, lazy, superstitious and irresponsible” and also dismisses Marie’s accusation of Frank by thinking, “she’s an Indian- why would she tell the truth? Here, the contemptible adjectives demonstrate his detestable viewpoint and his query as to ‘why’ would an Indian even think to be truthful, displays the frequent assumption that because of her culture, she is mendacious. These common prejudgments place Native Americans in socially disadvantaged positions and also provoke sexual exploitation among them. Here, the dominance of preconception in society, deprives the disenfranchised as both Montana 1948 and To Kill A Mockingbird evoke responders to consider the indecorous conduct and inequality of the societies reflected in these novels.
Correspondingly, the mentality of the Hayden’s is portrayed through David’s Grandfather when he states, “Screwing an Indian… You don’t lock up a man for that. ” This direct speech presents that the white population believed Indians were considered less than human beings. “Screwing” refers to sexual assault committed by Frank and the statement “you don’t lock up a man for that” displays ‘man’ as white individuals, portraying that because he did it to an Indian, it isn’t classified as a crime.
Here, the biased opinions that sexual assault isn’t a delinquency due to an individuals race, allows enfranchised individuals to obtain authority over the disenfranchised. Thus, Watson challenges responders to consider the detrimental consequences Indians experienced in the 1940s. Alternatively, To Kill A Mockingbird confronts the fundamental issue of corrupt actions dominating over justice, demonstrated in the 1930s and the novel’s community of Maycomb. Lee expresses her views through the narrative voice and characterization of Atticus exhibiting that the corrupt behaviors and prejudice of society, produces the disfigurement of acquiring ustice. Scout reflecting on her time as a child presents, ‘Atticus had used every tool available… to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men’s hearts Atticus had no case. ’ Here, Scout uses the metaphor ‘the secret courts of men’s hearts’ to refer to the internal ‘court system’ occupied by the men in that era. This ‘secret court’ is corrupt due to racial prejudice and displays that Tom Robinson didn’t have a chance of achieving justice. The narrative voice allows responders to gain an additional perspective and confronts responders to consider the effect these unethical behaviours have on accomplishing justice.
Similarly in Montana, justice was not achieved, as Frank commits suicide before he has the chance of being convicted and after this occurs the family agrees not to tell about his crimes. This reality of the 1930s to 1960s was very common as the pressure of society on an individual persuaded them to agree with the usual perceptions of prejudice and corrupt habits. Further, in To Kill A Mockingbird Atticus provides the value of equality, stating, “… you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but… no matter who he is… or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash. Here, a powerful lesson is emphasized through this uncharacteristic trait of Atticus calling white men ‘trash’, highlighting that he is rigidly committed to justice and racial equality. This is didactic as it confronts society’s perceptions at the time and engages responders to consider the importance of justice and moral values. Furthermore, Montana 1948, demonstrates that the egotistical ways of individuals in the era of the 1940’s, overpower the necessity of achieving justice.
These selfish attitudes and sense of enfranchisement are exhibited through the direct speech and innocence of the young narrative voice. David’s ignorance is highlighted in his concluding thoughts, “…Uncle Frank’s suicide had solved all our problems…there would be no trial… no reputations damaged… Indian women could visit a doctor without fear…” Here, he displays a powerful admission, believing that because of his Uncle’s act, ‘all’ of the problems were to be overlooked. This viewpoint is then reflected upon by the statement, “What more can I say?
I was a child. I believed all these things to be true. ” This allows Watson to present responders with an adult perspective, illustrating that David’s former viewpoint was childlike. Although the offender is removed from the community, the Indian women will still fear for their security, as these deplorable behaviours are a part of society and unfortunately disregarded. Likewise, in To Kill A Mockingbird, the disempowered members of society are apprehensive of the white people due to the corruption demonstrated by the court system of that era.
Furthermore, in Montana 1948, David claims, “It was decided not to reveal any of Frank’s crimes. What purpose would it serve? ” Here, the requisite right of Marie and the Indian women to acquiring justice is omitted due to the family’s self-centered sense of enfranchisement. Watson allows responders to consider justice and establishes that corrupt actions and values can dominate over its substantial importance. From these texts, society is portrayed to judge on irrational motives in isolating individuals who are falsely recognised in the era of the 1930s and 1940s.
Both texts demonstrate the power of enfranchised individuals and their detrimental effect to those of different race, gender and class. Through the childhood experiences of Lee and Watson, they are able to establish novels in which they confront the key issues of their time including racial prejudice and the necessity of achieving justice. Through this they enlighten the attitudes of responders to achieve change in the functioning of society.