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10 January 2023 | Podcasts |

The theme of abuse in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

The abuse team headed out to see London West End’s new play by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Bartlett Sher ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at the Gielgud Theatre based on Harper Lee’s famous and award-winning novel.

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‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is a novel by Harper Lee. Although it was written in 1960 it is set in the mid-1930s in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. It is narrated by Scout Finch, a six-year-old tomboy who lives with her lawyer father Atticus and her ten-year-old brother Jem. During the novel Scout, Jem and their friend Dill try to make their reclusive neighbour Boo Radley leave his house. Boo has not been seen in Maycomb since he was a teenager.

Set in deep south Alabama of the 1930’s, many residents of Maycomb are racist, and during the novel Atticus is asked to defend Tom Robinson, a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman. Atticus takes on the case even though everyone knows he has little hope of winning. The reader sees the trial develop through the childlike eyes of Scout, as gradually both she and her brother learn some valuable life lessons from their father about tolerance, empathy and understanding.

We get an insight into a deeply segregated society, set against the backdrop of the depression with poor white farmers cotton employing black labour.

Tom, a cotton picker falsely accused of rape by Mayella Ewell and her father Bob Ewell who has been hit hard by the depression.

Out of the false confessions we experience is the destructive forces of coercion, fear, shame, and racism.

We also get an alternative window to view the story from Dill who may also be a victim of abuse: neglected by his parents, and so experience the feelings of rejection and the impact this has on children.

Through the prism of abuse, we see powerful human dynamics:

  • False abuse allegations and we ask why would someone lie on oath, why? Shame; Coercion; and racism (a perception in that community that white people cannot be poorer and inferior to the black community?)?
  • Unspoken desire? Tom was probably the only kind person in Mayella’ life
  • Mayell was possibly the true victim of abuse but points the finger not at her real abuser elsewhere, and the team discuss possible reasons.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins at [email protected] or Danielle Vincent at [email protected]

Author bio

Danielle Vincent

Senior Associate

Danielle is a Senior Associate in the Abuse Specialist Personal Injury Department. She specialises in representing survivors of abuse and has experience in bringing claims against a number of institutions as well as individual abusers.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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