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To Kill a Mockingbird - The Coexistence of Good & Evil

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Lindsey Freeman

on 9 January 2015

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Transcript of To Kill a Mockingbird - The Coexistence of Good & Evil

Evil comes in a countless amount of shapes and forms. Whether regarding physical or metaphysical actions, evil is an abstract concept that often leaves its examiners shocked and sickened, but most of all, fascinated.
Throughout history, the nature of evil has been thoroughly scrutinized, both publicly and in literature, yet the age-old question remains: as human beings, what is our true nature?
The Counterbalance of Good & Evil
Many people will argue that evil is a necessary part of the world; that without evil, there would be no concept of good, and in turn, without good, there would be no evil; a metaphysical idea concerning the structure and basis of reality.
However, despite being a rather popular philosophical theory, it is little understood the origins of this belief.
The Philosophy of Good & Evil
Possibly being one of the most well-known symbols representing coexistence and balance is the Tai-Chi symbol, more commonly known as the Yin-Yang. Originating from as far back as ancient China, this symbol shows the contrast between dark and light.
The symbol is made not to be specifically black or white, just as things in life are not. The interaction between the two energies is believed to be the cause of events in life.
While 'yin,' would be dark, contracting and weak, 'yang' would be bright, upbringing, and strong. The shape of the two sections gives the sense of continual movement between the two energies.

Good & Evil in Famous Literature
Aside from in To Kill a Mockingbird, good and evil has been a widely explored topic in literature since the beginning of time. It appears as if every good story boils down to the fight between good and evil, whether it be moral (the willful acts of human beings,) or natural (natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes) evil.
Good & Evil in Classic Literature
Some of the most influential novels of all time are centered around the war between good and evil.

Good & Evil Archetypes in To Kill a Mockingbird.
To Kill a Mockingbird is held with high respect due to it's stunning use of archetypes to represent and convey emotions throughout the novel.
Some examples, to be short, are the Gothic details of the Radley house, the continual mention of mockingbirds, and seasons as the novel progresses.
To Kill a Mockingbird - The Coexistence of Good & Evil
Yang: Represents light, strength, or goodness.
Yin: Represents darkness, weakness, or evil
This small area of the opposite color represents the good that can be found within evil
This small area of the opposite color represents the evil that can be found within good
The Philosophy of Good & Evil Cont.
Contrary to popular belief, it was not Hitler or the Nazi party who invented the Swastika symbol. In reality, the Swastika is an ancient symbol used by several religions, most often used to denote something good.
In Hinduism, the Swastika is a symbol used to represent good fortune, divinity, and power, and is often displayed in a similar fashion as Christian churches display a cross. In Buddhism, the Swastika is used to represent eternity.
Hitler and the Nazi party adopted the symbol due to it's intention of purity, and was therefore thought to provide historical justification for their fabricated folklore of the Aryan people.
Often, the Hindu Swastika can be mistaken for that of the Nazis, therefore rising tensions between certain religions. Although there is a fine line between the pure intentions of the Hindu Swastika and the extreme evil of the Nazi Swastika, the symbol's use by Hitler has turned around the meaning of it entirely, causing the display of the Swastika in any form to be considered illegal and unsavory in numerous countries.
Because of this, the Swastika is now thought to be the perfect representation of continual movement between light and dark, similar to the Yin Yang.
The Hindu Swastika, unlike the Nazi Swastika is rotated slightly, and displays four small dots within each division of the symbol.
The Nazi Swastika is not only lacking the four dots shown in the Hindu Swastika, but it also slightly rotated clockwise.
Good & Evil Archetypes in To Kill a Mockingbird Cont.
The use of elements was used quite commonly throughout the novel to foreshadow and convey certain emotions and situations. For example, the fire that swallowed Ms. Maudie's house served as a major change in direction for the story, beginning with the trial of Tom Robinson.
The fire also took place on a cold night as snow was falling. Snowstorms, cold, and winter often represent death and emptiness in literature, and in this case, served it's purpose well.
Good & Evil Archetypes in To Kill a Mockingbird Cont.
Needless to say, animal archetypes are often used in To Kill a Mockingbird as well.
The Mockingbird, the most commonly referenced animal in the book, represents kindness and innocence. However, the characters who are referred to as mockingbirds, are often weak and vulnerable to the evils surrounding them. Some of the mockingbirds, for example, are characters such as Jem Finch, Mayella Ewell, and Tom Robinson.
The dog is also referenced at certain points in the novel, taking place as a dog infected with rabies who entered slowly into Maycomb, marking the very entrance of evil into the small town. Although the dog is not often mentioned, it remains a very important archetype in the novel.
Good & Evil Archetypes in To Kill a Mockingbird Cont.
A contributing factor to the story's dark, dramatic atmosphere is the use of several Gothic details in the setting and plot.
The term 'Gothic' refers to a style or genre of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance, first popularized in eighteenth-century England. Gothic fiction is often characterized by supernatural occurrences, dark, gloomy, or haunted settings, and so on.
Some of the Gothic details featured in To Kill a Mockingbird are the uncanny snowfall on the night of the fire, the description of the Radley place and jailhouse, and the ominous night of the Halloween party on which Scout and Jem are attacked by Bob Ewell.
Examples of Gothic Details
In this image of the Radley place, there are a few examples of Gothic imagery added to achieve a sinister or menacing feel.
Tall, gnarled trees
Large windows
Overgrown bushes
and shrubbery
Examples of Gothic Details
In this image of a classic haunted house, many of the same features as the Radley house can be seen.
Overgrown bushes
and shrubbery
Tall, gnarled trees
Large windows
Good & Evil in Classic Literature Cont.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
is known well due to its prevalent theme of good vs. evil. More specifically, the novel can be undoubtedly viewed as an allegory about the achievable good and evil within all men.
Using visual archetypes for it's characters as well as classic Gothic imagery,
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
tells the story of a battle between good and evil raging within a certain individual, raising the question to its readers repeatedly: which side is superior in us all?
Good & Evil in Classic Literature Cont.
Another classic novel which briefly examines the interaction between good and evil is Steinbeck's
Of Mice and Men.
Through the characters' dialogue and actions, we find that the characters share the same desire to be considered good, but are staggered by the repetitive cycle of evil striking them.
Good & Evil in Classic Literature Cont.
In addition,
The Most Dangerous Game
by Richard Connel is also a story of war between good and evil.
As stated, man is neither purely good or evil. Therefore, a true, sheer battle between good and evil is nonexistent within the conflict between man versus man. However, one man may be morally superior to the other.
Most readers will agree that General Zaroff is 'evil,' or otherwise morally corrupt in comparison in Rainsford.
Good & Evil in Modern Literature
The theme of good versus evil is not limited to classic works of fiction. Many of the novels being published today share that very message and theme, including those you may have already read.
Good & Evil in Modern Literature Cont.
Upon reading the popular series
The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins, one can conclude that the main villains of the series, President Snow and the Capitol are fitting as the very definition of evil. Thriving on the malicious Hunger Games, these characters will go to any extent to secure their power and their lives.
Good & Evil in Modern Literature Cont.
In J.K. Rowling's instant classic series
Harry Potter
, the battle between good and evil is stressed with the extensive use of color and animal archetypes and Gothic imagery. For example, common curses that do little to harm it's recipient emit blue, yellow, and purple sparks, while harmful curses such as the curse of death emit smokey green tendrils. Also, in the famous Patronus curse, characters with good intention are often characterized with passive creatures such as hares, dogs, and deer, while those seeking to harm others have creatures such as serpents. The lead villains such as Voldemort and his followers are easily distinguished by often exaggerated features and lengthened dialogue.
The coexistence of good and evil is a recurring theme which can not only be found in fiction, but in our everyday lives as well. To Kill a Mockingbird is not alone in it's use and imagery regarding good versus evil, however, it stood as inspiration for many of the similar novels which followed, and will continue to inspire many more to come.
Types of Evil in Literature
According to Norwegian philosopher Lars Svendsen, there are four main types of evil to be found in literature. These include:

Demonic evil:
Demonic evil is evil done for its own sake, performed expressly to harm others, or for the enjoyment of watching people suffer.

Instrumental evil:
Instrumental evil is evil which occurs in hopes to carry out a specific purpose.

Idealistic evil:
Idealistic evil is evil that is 'justified' by a greater cause, normally taking place as revenge.

Stupid evil:
Stupid evil is evil that occurs due to human incompetence, despite the fact that nothing bad was intended to happen.
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