Why does man treat others so harshly and with such cruelty? Since the beginning of time man has shown inhumanity to his fellow man. This was shown especially throughout the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s to get rid of segregation. Man’s inhumanity to man was even shown as early as the beginning of the 20th century. In some parts of the world today you can still see remnants of racism and other acts of cruelty that man does to his fellow man. The novel To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and two poems by Thomas Hardy, The Man He Killed and Ah, Are You Digging On My Grave, shows man’s inhumanity to man with the use of characterization, justification and black humor. Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill A Mockingbird was written in 1960.
It went on to Pulitzer Prize along with many other literary awards, which was a very big achievement for Harper Lee considering To Kill A Mockingbird was her one and only ever published novel (“Harper”) The 1960s were a time of segregation, racism and civil rights movements. Even though the whole book deals with racism in general the Scottsboro Trials that took place in 1931 had a big influence on Lee’s Tom Robinson trial. The Scottsboro Trials were a series of trials were nine African American teenage boys were charged with the raping two white women. The trials lasted six years and in the end, five out of the nine boys were convicted. These trials had a big impact on America, intensifying the debate on racism and racial prejudice.
Harper Lee was inspired by these trials and other acts of racial prejudice to incorporate acts of racism into To Kill A Mockingbird, which was very fitting since the book took place in the small town of Maycomb during the Great Depression (“LitCharts”).
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee can be used to show Man’s Inhumanity to Man using the characterization of Tom Robinson. Tom Robinson is a 25 year old African American man with a wife and kids who is accused of raping Mayella Ewell (“To Kill”). He is described as a “respectable, humble and kind negro” who is being defended by Atticus Finch. Atticus and the whole town knew that Tom’s fate was decided for him far before he even stepped in the courtroom because he was black.
However, even though this is true, Atticus knows that he must do what is morally right and defend Tom even though it goes against the “norm” of Maycomb (“Notes”). During the trial while Atticus Finch is questioning Tom Robinson he says, “Mr. Finch, if you was a nigger like me, you’d be scared, too” (Lee 104). This shows just how prejudice the people of Maycomb were and how the times were. Tom Robinson was just trying to help Mayella but all because of the color of his skin he is being falsely accused and interrogated about a crime he did not commit. Even though some of the jurors probably believe Tom and know that he is not guilty, such as the Cunningham who was on the jury, since he is black they have to convict him and find him guilty because they couldn’t let a black man get away with “raping” a white girl. Just like in the Scottsboro Trials, it became obvious that the girls were not reliable sources for the story they were telling but yet five out of nine boys were still charged with raping the two girls.
Examples of Man’s Inhumanity to Man in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee go much farther than just with the major characters. You can also see Man’s Inhumanity to Man in the characterization of some minor characters such as Cecil Jacobs. Cecil Jacobs is one of Scout’s classmates and even though he is only a young boy, he portrays some of the racist opinions that most of the older citizens of Maycomb possess as well (“To Kill”). One day during recess at school Scout and Cecil get into a fight because Cecil said that “Scout Finch’s daddy defended niggers” (Lee 40). The town of Maycomb is so hateful of African Americans and so judgemental that even the kids get involved in saying racial slurs/racial remarks. Thomas Hardy was born in 1840 in Dorset, England.
Throughout his life he wrote many works of literature such as novels, poems, etc. Hardy was very critical of the Victorian Era, like one of his influencers, Charles Dickens. Much of his poetry is described as “sardonic lament on the bleakness of human condition” (“Thomas”). He died in 1928 so he lived through the first world war. This impacted his writing quite a bit because he wrote some poems involving war such as, The Man He Killed and Ah, Are You Digging On My Grave. Neither of these poems were specifically based on any particular war/event, but where infact just written more generally (“Thomas Hardy”). Thomas Hardy’s poem The Man He Killed can be used to show Man’s Inhumanity to man through the use of justification.
Multiple times throughout the poem, the speaker is seem justifying the crime he has just committed, almost as if to make himself feel better. This is shown for the first time in lines 9-11 “I shot him dead because Because he was my foe, Just so: my foe of course he was;”. The repetition of the words “because, my foe, of course” and the shown hesitation with the use of the dash mark further show that the speaker is justifying the fact that he has just shot and killed some random man he has never really met or had a conversation with before. (“Man”). Also in lines 18-20 there is further justification with a little bit of questioning of himself and what he has just done when the speaker says, “You shoot a fellow down you’d treat if met where any bar is. Or help to half-a-crown”. This line says that because of war and the cruelty that war brings, soldiers are forced to kill men for no reason. He says that because of war, you wind up killing a man that you could’ve possibly befriended.
He uses this as justification because he makes it as if he had no choice other than to shoot the man. This poem takes place not during war but after because the speaker is a veteran that has just returned home. This intensifies the cruelties of war because the speaker felt obligated to kill this man who was his enemy and they were not even at war during wartime in the battlefields (“Man”). Examples of Man’s Inhumanity to Man can be seen in various other poems written by Thomas Hardy such as, Ah, Are You Digging On My Grave through the use of black humor. The speaker uses black humor many times throughout the poem to show the harshness of death and war. This is shown in line 15-16 when the speaker says, “-Nay; when she heard you had passed the Gate That shuts on all flesh soon or late,”. Usually Heaven is portrayed as this wonderful place where good deeds get recognized and rewarded and where your good spirit lives on forever, but these lines tell us otherwise.
By saying that “the Gate&…shuts on all flesh” it gives off the meaning that death and Heaven are not places where one receives “heavenly rewards” but is infact more like a trap where you are forgotten forever and lonely (“Ah”). Also in lines 5-6 it says “‘It cannot hurt her now,’ he said. ‘That I should not be true’.” This talks about how the husband of the woman that has just been buried is getting remarried because it will “not hurt her”. This, along with many other sentences in the poem show a bit of irony because all throughout the poem the woman thinks that she is being remembered for what a great woman she was and all the good things she did during her life but infact it it the exact opposite.
After she died, although people mourned her death, after a little bit they continued on with their normal everyday lives without her and eventually altogether forgot about her regardless of the good deeds she had done in her life while she still lived on Earth (“Ah”) In modern times people still see acts of inhumanity of man towards man but it is nowhere at the extremes it use to be with organizations such as the KKK or even the Nazi Party’s concentration camps/other acts of genocide throughout history. Although, there are still many prejudice people in the world who treat people a certain way or form judgements on people based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
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