What is justice ? The general definition is just behavior and treatment; “fairness and equity.” But justice is not always seen as this because there are two types of justice: moral justice and judicial justice. These two types can often contradict each other and cause unjust actions to take place. Harper Lee gives examples of how both moral and judicial justice can be affected by the other’s bias. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee does a good job in conveying the message of how people’s bias and incapability to be impartial can cause justice to not be properly served. People often confuse their idea of justice with the actual definition of what the terms means.
In chapter 9 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee creates a situation between Uncle Jack and Scout to demonstrate that people can be bias with their decisions. “‘You ain’t fair’… ‘you gon give me a chance to tell you?’…
‘ well, in the first place you never stopped to gimme a chance to tell you my side of it- you just lit right into me…'” (113-114). In this exchange, Scout is trying to explain to Uncle Jack that he should have listened to both sides of the story and by not doing this, he acted in a biased manner and without thought. Uncle Jack’s impotence to not listen to both sides of the argument and directly discipline Scout serves as an example of how people can make unjust, bias decisions. Harper Lee incorporates this conversation into the text because it supports her theme of injustice. It conveys that people’s incapability to set aside their bias and communicate creates a divide in justice being rightfully and wrongfully served.
The epitome of injustice in To Kill a Mockingbird is the injustice served in court when evaluating Tom Robinson’s word against Bob Ewell’s. “‘yessir but the jury didn’t have to give him death- if they wanted to they could’ve gave him twenty years, ‘…’you’d be surprised how hard that’d be. I won’t live to see the law changed, and if you live to see it you’ll be an old man,’ …’in our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins'” (294-295). This lengthy quote is taken from a conversation between Jem and Atticus in which Jem questions the impartiality of the court system. Atticus explains how a white man’s word always trumps a black man’s word, no matter how unreliable his word may be, which shows that they remain biased against a certain group of people, especially the African Americans.
Due to the jury’s bias, they sentence Tom Robinson to death because it was his word against a Bob Ewell’s word, a white man’s word. This dialogue is important to the text because it explains how sentencing Robinson was prejudiced, supporting Harper Lee’s message of bias leading to unjust decisions. The true moral injustice served in To Kill a Mockingbird is the bias shown by the townspeople when they’re succumbed in ‘Maycomb’s usual disease.’ “‘I hope and pray I can get Jem and Scout through it without bitterness, and most of all, without catching Maycomb’s usual disease.why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don’t pretend to understand'” (91). In this Atticus discusses how he does not want the innocence of his children stolen from them. Due to a bias the town has towards African Americans, the trial that Atticus Finch is working on begins to change and affect his and his children’s lives.
The towns’ bias is stealing the innocence of children due to their prejudice towards those of other skin tones. This bias shown by the townspeople is crucial in To Kill a Mockingbird because it shows the moral injustice which contrasts the judicial injustice shown in the text. It supports Harper Lee’s theme of biased thoughts resulting in inequity and injustice. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee uses examples of moral and judicial injustice to convey her recurring theme.
There are multiple definitions for justice and they each change due to opinions, bias, and perspective. From the varying examples of bias taking over the thoughts of others and causing a divide, in both judicial and moral standards, a common theme is expressed: people’s incapability to be impartial and their bias can cause justice not to be properly served.