To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel written in 1960 by Harper Lee. The novel addresses the issue of racism and inequalities in the social structure in the American south during the Great Depression. The novel’s main protagonist is Jean Louise Finch, also known as Scout. Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, is a lawyer and in the novel, he defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. The novel focuses on the racial issues that form around this case. Another, much different, literary work that also deals with similar issues of inequality is the Harry Potter series.
The Harry Potter series, written by J. K Rowling, focuses on the inequalities in a fictional world of wizards. Similar to To Kill a Mockingbird, there is a hierarchy in society based on birth. Just as the white people are considered to be “above” the black community in Maycomb, “pureblood” wizards are more respected in society than “muggleborns” or “muggles”. In To Kill a Mockingbird, the legal system of the south is shown to be very prejudiced and it is almost impossible to receive a fair trial.
This is shown through Tom Robinson’s case not one person, with the exception of Jem who is inexperienced in life, believes that Tom Robinson stands a chance in court against a white woman. Atticus himself has no hope of winning the case and when he is asked by Scout if he think they will win he replies, “No, honey” (Lee, 76). The legal system in the book is clearly shown to favor the white people, the ones that are considered of “higher” status in society.
This situation is similar to that of the legal system of the Harry Potter series in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The muggleborns in the wizarding world were rounded up and persecuted. They were not given a fair trial and their guilt of “stealing magic” was assumed before they even properly conduct a hearing, “Wands only choose witches or wizards. You are not a witch” (Rowling, 214). In the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus is targeted by gossip and disapproval throughout Maycomb. The reason for their disapproval is that Atticus is defending a black man in court.
Atticus is not the only one to be criticised for supporting a black man, Jem and Finch are also bothered because of who their father supports: “My folks said your daddy was a disgrace…” (Lee, 76). The Finch family is disliked by many in Maycomb because Atticus is defending a black person, even though they are white. Similarly, in Harry Potter, the Weasleys are regarded by many as disgraceful. The Weasley are a very old pureblood family, however, they are still frowned upon by many in the wizarding community.
The reason for this is that Arthur Weasley loves muggles and is very interested in learning more about them. Comparably to Atticus, he feels muggles should be treated with respect and using his job in the Ministry of Magic, creates a new act protecting muggle rights. His fascination and support for muggles is the reason he is often frowned upon by other families that are purebloods, such as the Malfoys. Mr. Malfoy states the following about Arthur Weasley and his Muggle Protection Act “There are rumors about a new Muggle Protection Act – no doubt that flea-bitten Arthur Weasley is behind it” (Rowling, 43).
At school, the Weasley children, especially Ron, are often bullied and mistreated by kids from other families, such as Draco Malfoy, because of their father’s wanting to help the cause of muggles. This can be seen when Draco Malfoy says to his friend, impersonated by Ron, “You’d never know the Weasleys were Purebloods, the way they behave” (Rowling, 166). In To kill a Mockingbird, Tom Robinson is accused of raping Mayella Ewell. However, we learn during the hearing that this is highly unlikely. “his left arm was fully twelve inches shorter than his right, and hung dead at his side” (Lee, 186).
As we can see from this quote, Tom Robinson is crippled and he has no use of his left arm, and as Mayella Ewell was beaten mainly on the right side, it is unlikely that the culprit was Tom Robinson. However, despite the lack of substantial evidence, Tom Robinson is accused of raping Mayella Ewell. It is later assumed in the book that Mayella Ewell herself attempted to molest Tom Robinson, “She tempted a Negro” (Lee, 203). Just as Tom Robinson pays for Mayella lustful feelings, a character in the Harry Potter series is targeted for being loved by Merope Gaunt.
Merope Gaunt comes from a family very similar to the Ewells; the Gaunts are dirt poor and uneducated. However, like the Ewells they hold themselves in high esteem. The Ewells are proud to be white and the Gaunts are proud to be purebloods and related to Salazar Slytherin, an important historical figure of the wizarding world. Like Mayella, Merope is terrorized by her father and forced to keep house for him. Also like Mayella, who attempts to remain presentable, Merope appears to be cleaner than her brother or father. Merope also attempts to gain the attention of a man her father and brother consider scum.
Merope loves a muggle man from the nearby village named Tom Riddle. When her brother discovers her secret feelings for Tom Riddle, he attacks him, “I got him as he went by, and he didn’t look so pretty with hives all over him, did he Merope” (Rowling, 199)? Although Tom Riddle is a white man and comes from the richest family in the village, the Gaunt men see him as the lowest form of human as he has no magical powers “…hankering after a filthy, dirt-veined muggle” (Rowling. 199)? Just like Tom Robinson, Tom Riddle is attacked for stirring the lustful feeling of a woman who is considered “above” him in social status.
To conclude, the issue of social inequality runs deep within the plot of both To Kill a Mockingbird and Harry Potter. In both the Harry Potter series and To Kill a Mockingbird, a social divide based on birth can be seen. In To Kill a Mockingbird, the reason for this divide can be clearly seen as skin colour. In Harry Potter, the divide is present based on abilities. In both cases the individual has no control over how high they are in the social hierarchy. Tom Robinson did not choose to be black just as Tom Riddle did not choose to be a muggle.
However, both characters are condemned, all based on something they did not choose to be a part of. Those supporting the minority groups in both books face gossip and hatred from the other members of their community. The legal system of both the south of America and the wizarding world during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is incredibly biased and prejudiced. In both cases, innocent victims are charged for outrageous crimes. In To Kill a Mockingbird Tom Robinson is accused of raping a woman despite being a cripple and in Harry Potter, muggleborns are accused of “stealing” their magical powers.
1. Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. Philadelphia: Lippincott: 1960. Print.
2. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic. 1999.
3. Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince. New York:
Scholastic, 2006. Print.
4. Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. London: Bloomsbury, 2008. Print