Coexistence Of Good And Evil In To Kill A Mockingbird

Harper Lee uses a variety of methods to characterize the characters in To Kill A Mockingbird. These include action/incidents, emotional settings, reactions, and thoughts. The theme is that ‘Good can coexist with Evil’. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is set in 1930s Alabama during The Great Depression. It takes place in a small town called Maycomb. The plot is told through Scout’s eyes, Jean Louise Finch. Lee excels when it comes to characterisation. This is especially true for characters like Mrs Dubose or Mayella Ewell.

Mrs Dubose’s example is that Good and Evil can exist together. She shows the good in both. Atticus states, “Mrs Dubose’s views were very different from mine, perhaps…I wanted Jem, Scout, and Scout to know what courage was.” Mrs Dubose is a person with opinions. Atticus has many views that they do not share, including hers on race equality, or what it means to be a gentleman. Atticus admires her, however, because of the courage with which she confronts her morphine dependence. Mrs Dubose wished to live a life free from dependence on drugs. This new detail allows both the character and reader to realize that Mrs Dubose had a good heart, but in a very different way. Harper Lee allows Mrs Dubose to be portrayed as a racist, cruel old lady. She then alters this picture by revealing previously unknown facts. The theme of coexistence between good and bad is introduced using Mrs Dubose, and the theme is then developed during the trial.

Mayella, a character in Lee’s work, is one of his best. At first, she could appear as a villain, but Lee shows more. Mayella lied by saying that he ran up behind her. Tom whipped me, insulted me and said dirt. I fought back. She contributed to Tom Robinson’s death by helping him get a guilty verdict. We can guess what she’s thinking, but we don’t know for sure. Her father has abused her before when he saw her kissing Tom. She is probably scared. Bob Ewell could have done the same to his adult daughter, as we see later in this book. Atticus asks Mayella if her dad beat her. Scout describes her expression as “a mix of terror, anger, and rage” (Lee 100). Mayella made a huge mistake by refusing to answer Atticus’s question. She becomes afraid of her father when she realizes that he forced her to lie. Scout uses a word that is specifically defined in the Cambridge Dictionary to describe Mayella, which is terror. Mayella’s fear of her father is shown to the reader. Lee’s description allows the reader infer Mayella’s emotions and thoughts. This makes the audience sympathize a little with Mayella, even though she might be more vile than ‘good.’

On another line, the reader sees Mr Cunningham. He is originally shown as a nice man and not the opposite. Readers will see Walter Cunningham with a crowd of people trying desperately to get through Atticus during the events in the prison: “‘You’ll know what we’re after,’ Cunningham replied. Walter, you can go back home. Tom is the target of Mr Cunningham’s mob because they are convinced he has committed a crime. To get Tom, they are willing to harm Atticus. Harper Lee uses his reaction and the incident to expose Walter Cunningham. Scout however, talks to Walter Jr. about his son and when he hears this, he becomes more hesitant and backs away from the mob. ‘Let’s get going, boys’.” (Lee, 82). Lee again uses the event, and how he reacted to it, in order to display his good qualities. The reader will never know the exact reason why Lee backed down. However, he can make assumptions about his reasoning. Mr Cunningham could have realized that Atticus had children too and didn’t wish to disturb them. Also, he may have given up because he was reminded of what Atticus had done for him. Walter Cunningham is perceived differently than the other characters. He’s seen as a man of good character who has done (or will do) bad things. This is made clear by Mr Cunningham’s perceived thoughts and actions.

Harper Lee used a variety of characters to illustrate the idea that good can exist alongside evil. Lee used various forms of characterisation like reaction, event or action, emotional setting, thoughts and more to bring this theme home. The novel shows the coexistence of good and evil in a single person. As Atticus said: “Mr. Cunningham’s a man ,… who is basically good.


  • ewanpatel

    I'm a 29-year-old educational bloger and teacher. I have been writing about education for about six years, and I have a B.A. in English from UC Santa Cruz. I also have a M.A. in English from San Francisco State University. I teach high school English in the Bay Area.