To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Code of Conduct

In To Kill a Mockingbird there are two different codes that come into conflict. There is the older, archaic notions of Southern chivalry and class, held by most of the town of Maycomb.. It is a code defined by racial supremacy and maintaining the status quo. When Mayella Ewell confronts the men in the courtroom and challenges their honor, she is making it an issue of white against black. It is not a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of trusting the word of a white woman over that of a black man. And rather than seem like "nigger lovers," they take the side of the Ewells.

Perhaps no one embodies the old Southern code more than Aunt Alexandra. It is she who believes that her prestigious lineage makes her superior to most others. She sees herself as a lady, and that her families fine breeding leaves them separated from people like the Cunninghams, the Ewells, and any African American. Although she sympathizes with Tom's plight, she believes that Atticus should not take on his case. Aunt Alexandra's notions of right and wrong do not include all people equally, and the town operates the same way.

It is Atticus who is the standard of a new code. Atticus stands up for right, no matter the situation. When other put parameters around who they will help, Atticus stands by anyone in need, regardless of their race or social standing. And Atticus goes beyond just helping others, he takes the time to understand them. He points out to Scout that to truly understand a person you must get inside their skin and walk around in it for awhile. Atticus does this with all the people he associates with. Rather than writing people off as "trash" or social deviants, he analyzes people and comes to a greater understanding of them. Unlike Aunt Alex, Atticus' code requires understanding, sympathy and consistency among all people.

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