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Double Standard In To Kill A Mockingbird

In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, author Harper Lee explores both race and sexuality, and the intersection these two factors can have. The premise of the novel is a comment on the criminalization of black male sexuality- set against the backdrop of a rape trial against a black man in 1930’s Alabama. It is no secret that in the decades following the Reconstruction era, a double standard existed for the behaviors deemed acceptable for black versus white citizens. This double standard becomes dangerous, when it allows for the systematic oppression of black men, in a criminal-justice system some might compare to slave-era America. The intersection of race and sexuality is a particularly interesting angle to observe, as this double standard is especially prominent. Criminalizing a black man’s sexuality proves to be a powerful accusation, even if falsified, such as in the case of Tom Robinson. Despite the undeniable evidence proving Robinson’s innocence and Mayella Ewell’s advances towards Tom, he is ultimately convicted of the crime, depicting the effects of the influences of racial prejudice. It is a natural thought process to wonder if the case was against a white man being accused of raping a black woman, would the same verdict have been reached? Robinson is convicted of a crime he did not even commit, and yet historically, the rape and sexual abuse of black women by white men has been unacknowledged and unpunished in the legal system. Lee’s use of the intersection of race and sexuality serves to depict the systematic injustice faced by black Americans in the legal system. Despite the fact that Mayella is the driving force in her advances made on Tom, it is ultimately Tom Robinson who suffers from the lies spread as a result of racial prejudice. The gross injustice described in the novel is a result of the criminalization of a relationship pursued by a white woman, in which the said crime did not even occur.

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