Rather than look at race divisions as standing in opposition to class divisions, the former can be included into the Marxist critique. This is evidenced in the overwhelming odds and antagonism faced by Atticus Finch in the courtroom. In the poignant courtroom scene toward the end of the novel, Atticus pitches for justice by claiming that though not all people are created equal in ability, they are to be judged equally in a court of law. But his pleas go to unsympathetic ears (a jury composed exclusively of southern whites). In a sad irony, Tom gets justice through the actions of another victim, Boo Radley. This example goes to show that the status of being a victim is in itself a parameter of identification. Across race, class and gender fault lines exposed in the novel there is this expression of solidarity among the victims. It is perhaps in light of the victimhood writ large in the novel that Harper Lee had chosen the mockingbird as the metaphor. This bird was perceived as a symbol of innocence and defenselessness. This identity fits Boo Radley and Tom Robinson perfectly. (Shuman, 2002, p.837) It is the powerful merging of two men, the white Boo Radley and the black Tom Robinson that the book’s most important messages are to be found. When Boo braves the outside world to save the children,
“he not only displays courage but also becomes an agent of true justice for the innocent Tom Robinson. He destroys, by protecting the innocent, that which destroys the innocent. In the identities and actions of Boo and Tom, Lee conveys the powerful message that human beings can create a racially balanced society in which justice overrides prejudice. Both men—and others such as Dill and the [mixed] children—are symbolic [mockingbirds.]” (Singley, 2002, p.187)
In sum, we see how Harper Lee constructs a diverse set of identities – mostly conforming to southern stereotypes. Scout Finch being the main narrator voice in the novel adds a dimension of innocence, for she is just a little girl. As Scout nonchalantly notes, in this world there are all kinds of folks. In a moving passage, Jem explains to Scout how the Maycomb society is divided across groups: “There’s four kinds of folks in the world. There’s the ordinary kind like us and the neighbors, there’s the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes.” (Lee, as quoted in Murray, 2010, p.75) Although Lee has been criticized by some reviewers for creating identities that reinforce stereotypes, she also adds sufficient distinctive features to each character. From a literary viewpoint, the author herself is above the prejudices displayed by her characters. For instance, she even treats the vulgar and ignorant Mayella Ewell with sympathy. In sum, “Lee’s characters are dramatic portrayals of persons and attitudes immersed in a moral battle pitting years of conditioning against what are right.” (Shuman, 2002, p.838)
In conclusion, To Kill a Mockingbird constructs people’s identities in an informed and nuanced manner. The book shows some characters as benevolent, a few others ignorant and a whole lot as unfair. Atticus Finch, Heck Tate and Boo Radley clearly come through as heroes. These three white men stand in stark contrast to the rest of their community in upholding that which is noble and just. For example, Tate, in his role as the sheriff, uses his discretion to not reveal the details surrounding Ewell’s death. Atticus Finch being the imposing figure in the story, Lee sketches his identity in greater detail. It is shown that Atticus belongs to the white elites of the town of Maycomb. This position of privilege makes his decision to defend Robinson all the more admirable and exceptional. Atticus is shown to be a father figure to impoverished blacks and whites in the town. Through examples such as these, Lee seems to be telling that “there are always ways to bring about true justice, to avoid victimizing others, and to protect innocent people.” (Singley, 2002, p.187) Lee also pays attention to the construction of identities that are on the periphery of the main plot. Lula, the black separatist member of Calpurnia’s church, is a good example. Through her, Lee articulates the various factors in Black Power politics of the day. Most importantly, though there are numerous instances of people divided along Marxist delineations of class, a few exceptional individuals rise above it and showcase a noble and virtuous humanity.