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Context in Wessex Tales & To Kill A Mockingbird

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Steph L

on 20 March 2015

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Transcript of Context in Wessex Tales & To Kill A Mockingbird

Some main themes of both books are:
Injustice and Inequality
Social class
Wealth
The supernatural

These are all linked to the context the story is set in.
Racism in To Kill A Mockingbird
Being born in the 1930s in Alabama, a town similar to the setting of the fictional 'Maycomb', Harper Lee drew on her own experiences when writing this book growing up in a very discriminating and prejudiced society.

Racism is a main theme in this novel, and it focuses on the unfair treatment of black people in the community of Maycomb. The black community must live in shacks on the other side of the train lines from the whites, physically isolated and segregated. They are literally "second class citizens". It is also impossible for a black person to start a romantic relationship with somebody who is white, as during the time, this would have been scandalous.




Poverty in To Kill A Mockingbird
In 1930's America, right after the Wall Street Crash, the distribution of income between the rich and the poor was so different that there wasn't enough people to buy goods and services, meaning the economy could not support itself.

Small, rural towns like Maycomb were hit the hardest, especially farmers like the Cunninghams, meaning Walter must go to school with no shoes or lunch. Aunt Alexandra thinks the Cunninghams are "trash", and forbids Scout from hanging out with Walter.
Wealth in Wessex Tales
In many of the stories, we get to see what impact wealth can have on your opportunities in life. In The Son's Veto, while Sophy wished to marry Sam, a gardener, she must give up on him due to her selfish and sometimes violent son, who views his social status and family name over the happiness of his own mother.

Also, in Tony Kytes, we see that the fact he owns a wagon draws attention from the ladies. In Hardy's time, it is apparent that men can win over women with a respectful job and income, while women must be beautiful. Rhoda's worn and aged face shows her to be a working class woman, while she constantly asks her son about Gertrude's skin.

In the Distracted Preacher, we see, however, that many people must rely on illegal activities such as smuggling simply to provide for their families and to have enough food to eat. As Hardy himself did not grow up in a wealth household, he seems to sympathize with lower class and poor characters such as Rhoda Brooke, while criticizing the class system.



The Supernatural in To Kill A Mockingbird
In a small, quiet town like Maycomb, it is apparent that news spreads round incredibly fast, usually in the form of gossip. Whilst "Boo Radley" isn't really a ghost, the captivating stories quickly reach the children, which causes them to view Boo as a source of childhood superstition instead of a real person, even believing that "Radley pecans will kill you". The often scary and supernatural ways the children describe Boo and his home show how they have been influenced by the stories the have heard.
Sources
http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/mocking/themes.html

http://resources.mhs.vic.edu.au/mockingbird/depression.htm


Social injustice in Wessex Tales
While racism is not a prevalent theme in Wessex Tales, as it is set during 1880's England when the black population was relatively small, and England never relied on the slave trade to support it's economy like America.

However, Hardy still focuses on inequality in his books, and just as Tom Robinson was unfairly sent to trial, Hardy shows that many people in the time the book was set depended on smuggling to earn a living, and shows the law enforcers in a bad light. In The Withered Arm, the boy on trial was incredibly young and, even though he was innocent, was hanged without evidence. This is similar to the unfair treatment of Tom Robinson.

In The Son's Veto, Sophie's son is selfish and disrespectful, constantly degrading his own mother just because she speaks differently and is of a lower class. He represents the upper class.
The Supernatural in Wessex Tales
The main story in Wessex Tales to feature supernatural occurrences is The Withered Arm, and it does so quite strongly. In 1880's England, medical care was poor, and most people could not afford it, so it was customary to use natural herbs and charms to heal an illness. In the case of this story, Gertrude must perform a sickening act in an attempt to heal her arm, but there seems to be no other option for her.

As most medical ailments could not be explained due to a lack of knowledge in the area, curses and witchcraft were often blamed for many things which could have been healed nowadays. Like in To Kill A Mockingbird, rumours and superstition of witches would likely spread through the town very quickly due to gossip, leading Rhoda to become very fearful.
Context in Wessex Tales & To Kill A Mockingbird
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