Due to fear and ignorance, prejudiced attitudes have affected communities and the way society operates for hundreds of years. Prejudice involves the negative preconceived ideas or opinions about a person without any reason, knowledge or experience. Prejudice derives from fear and ignorance of the unknown along with rigid attitudes. Both Harper Lee and John Steinbeck convey the clear nature, causes and consequences of different types of prejudice. These 2 authors depict the injustice, discrimination and inequality present in society due to racial, class and socio economic prejudice.
Class prejudice occurs when people are put into clearly defined groups which characterize the position and status they hold in society. Class prejudice is fuelled by both fear and ignorance. The fear is that somebody will stand higher in the social hierarchy than they should and ignorance is displayed when somebody is judged based on who they associate with rather than through knowledge of their true character. Class prejudice leads to the unfair treatment of people and inequality in society which is represented in the novel To Kill A Mockingbird.
Class prejudice is portrayed throughout the whole novel but it is truly highlighted when Jem says “I’ve got it all figured out now. There’s four kinds of folks in this world. There’s the ordinary kind like us and the neighbours, there’s the kind like the Cunningham’s out in the woods, the kind like the Ewell’s down at the dump and the Negroes”. The use of 1st person narrative and seeing Maycomb through the eyes of a child conveys a complete picture of Maycomb society in an engaging and sympathetic way. A child has a simple view of the world and has no inherent prejudice.
Harper Lee uses a child’s perspective to show that class prejudice is an unattractive invention created by adults. Racial prejudice occurs when people are judged on the colour of their skin and their differences, not their personal attributes. Racial prejudice is based on the incorrect and illogical assumption that some humans are better than others and this is indicated by their skin colour. Racial prejudice leads to segregation, discrimination and results in the unjust treatment of people which is exemplified in To Kill A Mockingbird through Tom Robinson’s trial. Racial prejudice is one of the overriding themes and concepts in the ovel and is explored throughout everyday life in Maycomb. The extent of racial prejudice in Maycomb is shown when Atticus says “In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s word, the white always wins. They’re ugly, but these are the facts of life”. Harper Lee uses this quote to highlight that injustice and racial prejudice have been features of Maycomb society for a long time. The use of colloquial language along with Atticus’ voice, which is to be trusted, states this fact flatly, leaving no doubt that this is no small problem for future generations to overcome.
Harper Lee uses the concept of racial prejudice to convey the idea that when deeply entrenched, racial prejudice can result in a society that is permeated by injustice and discrimination. Socio economic prejudice is the discrimination against people because they come from an economic background that society considers low or unworthy of good treatment. Socio economic prejudice is centered on the false belief that a person, or group of people, are not worthy of equal treatment because they are feared by the community and considered unacceptable in society.
When this form of prejudice is present in a society people are treated unethically and dishonourably. In an extract from the novel The Pearl by John Steinbeck, socio economic prejudice is present throughout. The Pearl depicts an Indian couple whose young baby has been fatally stung by a scorpion. The couple request help from a wealthy doctor who refuses to help them because of their low social position as well as the fact that they can’t pay him. Steinbeck portrays this type of prejudice through the use of a rhetorical question by the doctor; “Has he any money? The doctor goes on to tell the servant that these people seeking help never have money and to stop wasting his time. This quote is blunt and displays that socio economic prejudice is deeply engrained in this society and no circumstance will overcome this form of prejudice. Steinbeck uses a fatal condition to show the adversity of socio economic prejudice. No matter what the contingency is, if you are considered unacceptable in society and don’t have enough money, than you aren’t worth the required treatment.
Racial, class and socio economic are all different types of prejudice that have one thing in common; they all result in the unfair treatment of people due to fear and ignorance. Harper Lee and John Steinbeck both provide evidence of this in their novels with the use of two characters; Tom Robinson and an innocent Indian baby. The concept of prejudice is more deeply explored in To Kill A Mockingbird with so many quotes and different forms of prejudice. John Steinbeck still explores the ideas about prejudiced attitudes in The Pearl but not in as much detail as Harper Lee.