Illuminating Incident Essay
The Innocent of Macomb County
To Kill a Mockingbird is as much a book about prejudice stripping people of whom they truly are, as innocents being taken and defined. We see the people of Macomb who are truly pure and naive, and how that leads to their destruction, their definition, and their revelation. This can all be revealed through the eyes of Scout during the last moments of the book when she stands on the Radley porch and she finally sees things through Boo’s point of view. She realizes the injustice of Tom Robinson’s conviction and how that was caused by the prejudice of Macomb. We see her make insights on herself, who she is, and how the events of the novel have shaped her. Then she makes comprehensions about Boo, and how he may have been the most misunderstood and innocent of them all. Since innocence can be defined as being not guilty of a crime, having a lack of experience with the bad things in the world, and having a lack of knowledge of something, all three of these characters are innocent, in more ways than one. In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, we see the theme of losing one’s innocence in various characters during the illuminating incident of Scouts realizations at the end of the novel.
During the last chapter, we see Scout make some astounding connections to the events that have occurred, and it is only when she reflects on them that she finally sees how unjust the treatment of Tom Robison was. For instance, when Atticus asks Scout if she can understand what has happened, she agrees and states, “Well, it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?” She has made the connection to the innocence of a mockingbird and how it only sings for people, to Boo Radley and how he only helps people, in this case, helping her and Jem. If Scout can make this connection, she most certainly made a similar connection to Tom. He was a man who was only helping and being kind, but because he happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and was thrown into a trial that was—as Atticus would say—licked from the start. Scout must have seen that something similar would happen to Boo, only he would be hurt from the limelight—or any light—that he wasn’t used to. Tom was a good man who was naïve about how Mayella thought of him, and this coupled with the racial attitude of the town, was what led to his destruction. He was not guilty in his crime, but since his view on the world has been torn apart by the evil of the trial, he tries to escape from it, which leads to his end. Scout states in her inner monologue, “Summer, and he watched his children’s hearts break.” This was the time after the trial when the children walk home with Jem crying. In this moment we take in that all of the children were heartbroken because of the undeserved imprisonment put upon Tom, and how only the people too young to understand racial prejudice will cry. This is the second time this has been mentioned in this book, and the first time by Atticus who made the connection, this time by Scout, an eight year old girl.
This leads to how Scout has matured and, in essence, lost her innocence. She has made profound connections to events and people all over Macomb, and is still so young. Because she has a better understanding of Macomb, she knows of the prejudice that effects the town, as well as the prejudice that she believed in. She states, “Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough,” which talks about how she can see what Boo sees and that is enough to understand the way he acts. He saved her and her brothers lives, but this whole time they thought he was a monster. This is the prejudice that Scout suffered from. She believed that Boo Radley was a terrible, vile, thing that stayed hidden because he didn’t want anyone to see his darkness, but