On analyzing the book of Harper Lee “To Kill a Mockingbird”¯, I came to the conclusion that every detail is highly important for understanding the author’s message. Consequently, even the character, whose existence in the novel, at first, seems to be meaningless, plays its own role. Generally speaking, the author conveys to the reader ideas of the existence of social inequality, racial discrimination, and a permanent struggle between good and evil with the help of different stylistic devices, artistic details, and characters, including minor characters who play very often quite a symbolic role in the novel. In my work I would like to dwell upon the role of minor characters in order to improve that they really add to the novel vividness, attractiveness and make it true to life and extremely problematic work which was and remains very actual and interesting for readers of different age, race, social position and personal beliefs.
The problem of good and evil
First of all, I want to start with such an eternal problem as the problem of good and evil. If we think over the novel as a whole we’ll understand that the author tended to underline that good and evil coexist and neither good nor evil prevail in our life. However, practically every person has some positive traits or inclinations even if a general characteristic of this person is negative. As an example of such a person, we may name aunt Alexandra. Frankly speaking, at the beginning she produced a repulsive impression on me because she is full of prejudices She was snobbish over black people at large and Calpirnia in particular, whom she didn’t want to participate in bringing up the children, as well as she scorned poor white people. Also she lectures her brother how he should rear his children.
But, by the end of the novel, it turns out that she can be better and she really cares about her brother as she says about Tom’s trial: “I just want to know when this trial will end. It tears him to pieces.”¯ By the way, when Tom is dead we see that she also feels pity, she is upset despite all the prejudices. Finally, we realize that she loves the children of her brother and concerns for them when they have been saved from Ewell’s assault.
The problem of racism and social inequality
Another big problem, the author raises and, to a certain extent, reveals with the help of minor characters, is the problem of racism and social inequality. A vast social distance is evident between wealthy and poor people such as the Finches and the Cunninghams, the family of poor farmers. One of them, Walter Cunningham can’t even pay for his lunch at school. But the social position of black people is even worse than that of poor white. They are constantly oppressed and discriminated they do not have the same rights as white people do and they can be sentenced being innocent. Paradoxically, black community remains much more moral then some of white people like Bob Ewell or her daughter Mayella who is ready to condemn Tom to death in order to save her own life under her father’s threat.
Personally to me, her crime is pardonable but still unacceptable.
The symbolism of minor characters
Finally, I want to underline the symbolic role that minor characters play in the novel. Moreover, I believe that they help a reader to reveal the real sense of the novel and particularly the sense of its title. Some of the characters of the novel may be identified as mockingbirds.Ā As far as I understood a mockingbird symbolize an innocent person who is destroyed by evil. Among such people we can name Tom Robinson, Mr. Raymond, Dill, Boo Radley and some others.
For example, Mr. Underwood says about Tom’s death as about “the senseless slaughter of songbirds.”¯ But I think that the best words, which explain that innocent people shouldn’t suffer or die because of the contact with the evil world around them, belong to Miss Maudie who says to Scout: “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”¯
Thus, it is obvious that even minor characters cannot be ignored by a reader because without them, without their often short but very precise words we will fail to understand the deepest sense that the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”¯ conceals. They help to realize a profound symbolism of the novel and the main problems that the author raises in her work.