?Vision is the act of seeing things invisible? (Jonathan Swift). In every society there is an underlying darkness that is alienation. Those who fall victim to alienation become the invisible and voiceless members of society. In Society there are few that see alienation. There are even fewer that know it is morally wrong and try to illuminate it. Alienation often goes unseen, but it is always there. The struggle to eliminate it will forever continue. In To Kill A Mockingbird it is children who have not yet learned to be blind, and an enlightened minority that have vision to see the invisible. In To Kill A Mockingbird there is a strong and important theme of alienation and unjust treatment. The fight to eliminate it is represented through Atticus?s efforts. In To Kill A Mockingbird alienation is illustrated through the treatment of characters such as Arthur Radley, Tom Robinson and Mayella Ewell. Throughout the novel there are countless instances of societal discrimination toward these characters. Intolerance and ignorance in society is the cause of alienation.
In Maycomb almost every person alienates Arthur Radley. The reader never really understands who Boo Radley is. Instead the reader hears the many opinions of the people in Maycomb. Harper Lee does this on purpose to demonstrate that no one has the right to judge another person because no one can be sure of another person?s position. People of Maycomb choose to believe what they hear about Arthur because ?[p]eople generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for?(174). There are many rumors about Boo Radley, for example some ?[p]eople said he went out at night when the moon was down, and peeped in windows? (9). Stories about Boo are pasted around Maycomb quickly but the truths of injustice are kept quiet. Arthur?s behavior suggests that the lack of tolerance and understanding was apparent to him. Jem explains that he used to think there was ??just one kind of folks?(227). He goes on to say that he understands why Boo Radley?s stays shut up in the house all the time ??because he wants to stay inside?(227). This suggests that Jem is starting to recognize the injustices in the world around him and is struggling to understand how he will deal with them without alienating himself. No one in Maycomb wants to be the one to rock the boat including Arthur Radley. According to legend Boo was involved in a misdemeanor as a teenager. His father reacted with zero tolerance and Arthur Radley was put under house arrest for an undetermined length of time. His father?s intolerance represents society?s ignorance. The fact that he traps him in the house represents Boo?s isolation. His father is respected and this shows society?s respect for the status quo. Arthur never gains the courage to step back out into the world outside of his home. Arthur Radley is a great example of the invisible members of society, both literally and figuratively. He stays inside to avoid confronting ignorance and intolerance and is therefore alienated. He is invisible just as alienation often goes unseen. Mr. Raymond talks of how children often have difficulty understanding the prejudice in society, but as they grow older they adapt. Near the end of the novel Arthur is referred to as ?childlike?. He never adapted and never became intolerant. Arthur is very much afraid to go outside, he is not accustomed to socializing because he has been isolated for such a long time. Arthur is a symbol of alienation; his fear of the outside world represents the fear of the unknown that causes discrimination
Tom Robinson is the victim of prejudice, racial discrimination, alienation, and injustice. To Kill A Mockingbird takes place in southern Alabama in the 1930?s, the time and place of an extremely segregated society. Tom Robinson symbolizes the black sector of society and how they are mistreated. Mr. Raymond talks about ?the Hell white people give coloured folks, without even stopping to think that they?re people, too?(201). The treatment of Tom at the trial illustrates this. It is hard for someone who does not believe in unjust treatment to stand up for his or her beliefs. Scout and Jem are teased just because Atticus is representing a black man. The trial is the greatest example of rascal discrimination. It is evident that Tom is innocent but still he is convicted. Mr. Gilmer continuously refers to Tom as boy during the trial. This is meant to be derogatory. Even in a court, where everyone is supposed to be equal, Tom is treated with discrimination. The majority of the white members of the community view Tom as a lesser human being. When he says that he felt sorry for Mayella he is almost sure to lose. In there opinion a black man is thinking to highly of himself if he has the audacity to feel sorry for a white person. Scout says as an adult it occurred to her ??that in there own way Tom?s actions were as good as Atticus?s?(195). Tom is not racist. Despite the way he is treated he does not express anger toward white people, just in sadness that it is the way it is. He is convicted anyway; the jury could not empathize with his position. As so as the event with Mayella occurred Tom feared ending up in court having to ??face up to what [he] didn?t do?(198). He is scared because he already knows how people will react to the situation. Unfortunately what Atticus tells the jury not to do is exactly what they do. He tells the jury that they should not go along with the Ewells ??on the assumption — the evil assumption — that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral begins, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women, an assumption one associates with minds of their caliber?(204). The people of Maycomb do believe in the stereotypes. They are taught racism from the time they are born and to them it?s just the way it is.
Mayella Ewell is disrespected and disliked by the people in Maycomb County. The people of Maycomb did accept Mayella as a member of the society. However, they would not tolerate her as anymore then the rest of her family. They had a different way of life but, ?[n]obody said that?s just their way about the Ewells?(192) because society disrespected them and viewed them as trash. Mayella grew flowers and ??she seemed to try more?n then the rest of ?em?(197). However, Mayella couldn?t over come her alienation because ??people wouldn?t have anything to do with her because she lived among pigs?(192). The Ewells lived near the garbage dump and they are associated with it by the people of Maycomb. Harper Lee sympathized with Mayella?s character. Mayella?s middle name is Violet, which relates to the flowers that she goes outside to water. Mrs. Radley also had flowers on the porch. The flowers symbolize escape from alienation because flowers bring equal beauty to all. Mayella was lonely, isolated, uneducated, abused by her father, and confused by Tom?s kindness. As Tom gave his testimony Scout reflects that ??Mayella Ewell must have been the loneliest person in the world?even lonelier than Boo Radley?(191). At the trail Atticus asks Mayella if she has any friends. She responds with confused and thinks he is trying to insult her. This shows that she was extremely isolated. Mayella?s loneliness made her crave love and attention, she needed to respected as a human being. The communities pre-conceived opinion of Mayella caused her to feel that she could not admit to her actions with Tom Robinson. Society?s high intolerance meant that she would never have the respect she fought so hard for.
Prejudice and intolerance cause alienation in Maycomb. Arthur, Tom, and Mayella are all excluded from the regular society. Boo Radley is alienated because he never goes outside and is different from society. He is a symbol of the voiceless and invisible members of society. Tom is discriminated because he is black and is seen as a lesser human being. Mayella is alienated because of the family she is a part of and the environment that she lives in. If the people of Maycomb had been more open minded and tolerant Arthur, Tom, and Mayella would not have been alienated. It is society?s intolerance that causes some members to be excluded. Throughout To Kill a Mockingbird there is evidence of intolerance. The people of Maycomb didn?t know better than to believe the injustice that they had been taught was right from the time they were born. They never thought about whether it was right or wrong it was just the way it was. In every society there is alienation. And it is always unjust. The only way to demolish it is to acknowledge its existence. In order to acknowledge alienation, prejudice, intolerance, ignorance, discrimination, and racism all have to be realized. Only then can the fight to overcome alienation begin.