In the Novel To Kill a Mockingbird many of the characters are classified by one another according to rigid categories, in which the characters hold stereotypes about how people will act as a result of their gender, age, race, social status and other aspects of that specific individual. Some of these individuals that are victim to stereotype break through the behavior expected of them, showing individuality and exposing the unkindness of labeling people.
The stereotypes that are found in To Kill a Mockingbird are the cause of racial biases especially pertaining to the Tom Robinson court case. The case was accusing Tom Robinson, a black man, of raping a white women. Despite all the evidence in favor of Tom’s innocence he was wrongfully convicted due to very high amounts of stereotypes and racism. Tom’s lawyer Atticus was determined to bring the stereotypical and racist ways of the court system to the people’s attention. Atticus pleads to the Jury, “The Witness for the state, with the exception of the sheriff of Maycomb County, have presented themselves to you gentlemen, to this court, in the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted, confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption, the evil assumption, that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women, an assumption one associates with minds of their caliber” (Lee 273). Atticus points out to the court why it is wrong to assume Tom is guilty simply because he’s black and the man who accused him happens to be white. Atticus had failed to prevent Tom’s wrongful conviction and the events that ultimately led to Tom’s death, but, his attempt to bring awareness to the stereotypical and racist ways of the court did not go unnoticed.
The racial profiling and the stereotyping of Tom Robinson sadly cost him his freedom, and liberty. After Tom’s wrongful conviction, he was sent to the county jail, and because of racism and stereotyping that decided the court case, he felt hopeless that he’d been wrongfully convicted, so in attempt to gain his freedom, he risked his life in a daring escape. He is unfortunately shot several times and killed. Atticus, Tom’s former lawyer, tried to explain why Tom ran saying that “Tom was tired of white men’s chances and preferred to take his own” (Lee 315). Atticus explained that the result of the first trial, had Tom feeling defeated already. To Tom it was already over because of the first trial’s results. It did not matter that the amount of evidence that proved Tom’s innocence or the individuals in the jury, the verdict was inevitable as long as stereotypes and racism sat in the mind of people. An unfair trial, and a black man’s life was lost because of the racial bias and stereotyping.
Tom Robinson’s individuality sadly cost him his life, but in doing so he exposed the true unkindness of labeling people. Instead of following the stereotypes he was victim to, he decided to not take “White men’s chances” and take his own chances, by attempting to escape. Tom is breaking through the stereotypes given to him, showing his individuality and ability to put his life in his own hands, Tom knew the risks and payed the ultimate price, when he was shot excessively, in the act though, he exposed the racism and stereotyping he fell victim to. We could assume, due to the circumstances of that specific time period and based on the racial profiling and stereotypes seen previously in the court case, if Tom was a white man, he wouldn’t have been shot, possibly been caught by a police officer, or in the event that he was shot, he wouldn’t have been shot so excessively.