Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird


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In the novel, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, the main characters: Atticus, Scout and Jem were faced with many losing battles such as Tom Robinson's case, the "mad dog incident" and Mrs. Dubose's addiction to morphine. This builds on the theme of there are things in life that won't go your way. The book takes place in the 1930's or 1940's in a small town in Alabama called Maycomb. The novel takes us through the life and perils that the main characters undergo and teach us about growing up and being mature.
To begin, one of the losing battles in the novel was the mad dog incident. This event started on page 96. Jem and Scout encountered Tim Johnson, a "liver-colored bird dog, the pet of Maycomb" (pg. 96). He was sick and was pretty much crawling. The children ran to Calpurnia, their cook who identified the dog as a mad dog…and after that, people immediately rushed home and the street the Finches lived on was deserted. Atticus (Scout and Jem's father) and Heck Tate (the sheriff) soon arrived to see what was going on. The dog was shivering, its jaw opened and shut and was advancing slowly towards Atticus, Heck, and the kids. Heck immediately handed his rifle to Atticus who had hesitated to shoot at the dog. "I haven't shot a gun in thirty years—" (pg. 100) was Atticus's response. Heck gave Atticus his rifle and told him "I'd feel mighty comfortable if you did now," (pg. 100). Atticus took the gun and slowly took aim at the dog with tough concentration. His glasses slipped off his nose and broke…but he paid no attention. "With movements so swift they seemed simultaneous, Atticus' hand yanked a ball-tipped lever as he brought the gun to his shoulder. The rifle cracked." (pg. 100). Atticus shot at the dog and ended its life…and the dog "didn't know what hit him" (pg. 100). This shows that the incident was a losing battle to the dog because the dog couldn't stop itself from dying. It pretty much had to die since it was ill and was in great pain. Atticus didn't want to shoot the dog at first but he knew he had to protect the town and free the dog of its pain. Because the dog didn't have a choice about whether or not it was going to die, it is an example of a losing battle.

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This relates to the theme because Atticus did not want to shoot the dog even though he had to to protect the town.
Another example of a losing battle was Mrs. Dubose and her addiction to morphine. The children didn't really become involved with Mrs. Dubose until the part when the Scout tells about how Mrs. Dubose was yelling at the children and talking bad things about them and getting them in trouble. As soon as the children walked past her house, she started to yell at them and said "Where are you two going at this time of day? Playing hooky, I suppose. I'll just call up the principal and tell him!" (pg. 105). She said all this because they passed by. When the kids tried to explain, she didn't care. At this point I really hated her until the novel said that she was addicted to morphine and that she was really sick. "Mrs. Dubose was a morphine addict" (pg. 115). Atticus explained to Jem that he couldn't blame her for acting mean. "Jem, she's old and ill. You can't hold her responsible for what she says and does." (pg. 109). This was what Atticus told Jem after he had a tantrum and destroyed Mrs. Dubose's plants. Jem atoned for this by going to her house everyday to keep her company until an alarm rang which was time for her to take her medicine. What Scout noticed was that each day they were getting released from her home later than usual…this was because Mrs. Dubose was trying to break her addiction to morphine by trying to last longer without it. So each day she set her alarm clock a few minutes later to last longer without taking the drug so she could die in accomplishment. Of course she was old and ill and would die soon and she couldn't possibly break her addiction in time. This was a losing battle because she tried her best to end her addiction to morphine or at least go close but it wouldn't happen because she didn't have much time left. She passed away one night when Atticus went to check on her. She had passed away but had made her will to Atticus before Jem started to read to her. "She said she was going to leave this world beholden to nothing and nobody…" (Pg. 115) was her will to Atticus, this is what made her break her addiction to morphine. She died and peace and according to her she was "beholden to nothing and nobody". So in a way she lost and won this battle.
Finally, one of the most important losing battles was Tom Robinson's case. Tom Robinson, an African-American man was accused of raping Bob Ewell's daughter, Mayella. Scout found out about Atticus's trial when she beat up Cecil Jacobs for saying Atticus defended "niggers". Scout asked Atticus and he said he did but said not to say nigger. He explained to Scout why it was important to help Tom Robinson but she didn't quite get it. Atticus left Scout with a word of advice. "No matter what anybody says to you, don't you let ‘em get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a change…it's a good one, even if it does resist learning." (pg. 80). Scout gives in to what people say about Atticus though. People of Maycomb talked all sorts of bad things about Atticus because he was supporting Tom Robinson and he knew he wouldn't win the case because of Maycomb's usual disease. The disease was how everyone judged people by their looks and disliked Africans because they were "different". An event that showed where someone talked about bad about Atticus was during the Christmas family gathering and Scout's cousin Francis started talking about Atticus being a disgrace to the family. "I guess it ain't your fault if Uncle Atticus is a nigger-lover besides, but I'm here to tell you it certainly does mortify the rest of the family—". (pg.87). Here, Francis was saying how Atticus defending "niggers" disgraced the family. Scout of course beats up Francis for this on page 88. This showed how much people disliked the fact that Atticus not going to win the case…because so many people were against his actions. Atticus tried his best at court to save Tom Robinson but it was hopeless, people would always choose a white man over a African…all the time. Atticus was still going to try and help Tom Robinson get out of jail. He told Jem "There's nothing more sickening to me than a low-graded white man who'll take advantage of a Negro's ignorance." (pg.223). He's saying that he can't stand the fact that Mr. Ewell was taking advantage of Tom Robinson and yet he still won the case. Though Atticus was trying to get Tom out of jail, he had given up on himself already. He said "Good-bye, Mr. Finch, there ain't nothin' you can do now, so there ain't no use tryin'. " (pg. 237). Shortly afterward, Tom Robinson was found shot dead trying to escape. "They shot him. He was running. It was during their exercise period. They said he just broke into a blind, raving charge at the fence and started climbing over." (pg. 238). He knew he wasn't going to make it…it was impossible. He was running down a field alone with guards and everyone watching him and he had to climb over a fence too. It was pretty much suicide for him so this could show another losing battle. In a way both the case and Tom's attempt at escaping showed losing battles. Tom's case was a losing battle because he couldn't have won because of the fact the so many people were against him since he was black, and Tom's escape from jail was a losing battle as well because the odds were against him.
In conclusion, though the main characters in the story had many good times together, they also became faced difficult times and events that they couldn't have their way with. The author, Harper Lee included the theme this way to keep the reader thinking about how unfair life can be. She used losing battles to show the reader that people will lose things in life as they get older. This theme is saying how life is sometimes unfair teaches people an important lesson…that one must sacrifice things important to them in order to be mature.


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