Why To Kill a Mockingbird Is Controversial

Atticus Finch in the court roomm
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There are several reasons that the content of Harper Lee's great novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, is sometimes considered so controversial (and inappropriate for young audiences) that it is banned, challenged, as well as removed from school/library lists and shelves.

Racial Injustice

The topic of prejudice, discrimination, and out-and-out cruel hatred is not always a topic that we like to discuss with our children. After all, we want children to remain innocent, to be removed and protected from the injustices, unfairness, cruelty, and fear that so often prevails in this world.

Children learn all-to-quickly that society is filled with goodness and kindness (or at least that's the hope), but there's also a great deal of evil, bullying and all the worst unkindness in human nature. To Kill a Mockingbird explores both aspects of humanity. There's the life-and-death struggle of an innocent Black man against the discrimination and barbarity that's not only evident in the actions of their fellow townspeople but also in the pervasive prejudices of the legal system.

Atticus is the only man who is brave enough to stand up against the mob-rule, in an effort to ensure that justice is served! He knows that the ignorance that prevails could cost him his life (and/or everything he holds dear), but the pursuit of justice and the defense of innocence is (to him) worth anything he could face. He is not deterred.

Sexual Violence

Although the lies that are told related to the "rape" are not explicit in nature, there's still the fact that Mayella Ewell put blame on Tom Robinson for a horrible violation. The indictment is completely fabricated, but even the claim of rape troubles some readers. For some parents, teachers and other gateways to reading, the topic of violation (even in an abstract sense) is unacceptable for school-age children.

Physical Violence

It's difficult to feel sorry for Mayella because we know what her claims mean to Tom (and to Atticus, as he attempts to defend an innocent man). We may dislike what she's saying (and doing), we come to some acceptance of the psychology of the poor, abused girl; she would do or say anything (in her fearful and browbeaten state).

In addition to the abuse that Mayella experiences at the hand of her father, physical violence are brought to bear upon Atticus and his children. In their anger and ignorance, the townspeople attempt to use violence and fear; to control Atticus.
Atticus refuses to back down. He refuses to allow an innocent man to falsely convicted and imprisoned, without at least a fight. Atticus says:

"Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It's knowing you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do." 

Here's another interesting question; how would the novel be different without controversial topics (and events)? Imagine what the book would be like if they sanitized the novel.

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Lombardi, Esther. "Why To Kill a Mockingbird Is Controversial." ThoughtCo, Jan. 18, 2021, thoughtco.com/to-kill-a-mockingbird-banned-741685. Lombardi, Esther. (2021, January 18). Why To Kill a Mockingbird Is Controversial. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/to-kill-a-mockingbird-banned-741685 Lombardi, Esther. "Why To Kill a Mockingbird Is Controversial." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/to-kill-a-mockingbird-banned-741685 (accessed August 3, 2021).