Irony is the opposite of what is and what seems to be. Harper Lee uses irony in her novel To Kill A Mockingbird on several occasions to illustrate the difference between appearance versus reality. An example of this is the cementing of the tree. Jem and Scout received many gifts from the oak tree like: chewing gum, a ball of twine, soap carvings of Jem and Scout, a spelling medal, Indian-heads, and a pocket watch. Jem and Scout write the gift-giver a thank you note intending to put it in the tree hole the very next day. When they arrive at the tree they noticed that the hole had been cemented.
Jem and Scout asked Mr. Radley why he filled the hole with cement and his reply was, ‘Tree’s dying. You plug ’em with cement when they ” re sick. You ought to know that, Jem’; (pg. 67). Later that same day Scout finds Jem crying because he had realized that Mr.
Radley was preventing his brother Boo from pursuing a friendship with them. The difference between appearance and reality comes into affect. First, Mr. Radley tells Jem and Scout that he cemented the tree because it was sick when it was not. Secondly, Jem realized that Mr. Radley had lied just to keep Boo from having any friends from the outside world.
Harper Lee uses irony when Aunt Alexandra hosts the missionary circle. The ladies that attended Aunt Alexandra’s missionary circle acted as hypocrites. She says, ‘… I made a pledge in my heart. I said to myself, when I go home I’m going to give a course on the Mrnas and bring J.
Grimes Everett’s message to Maycomb… .’ ; (pg. 233-234). The are speaking with compassion of neglected Blacks somewhere in Africa while treating the Negroes that live in and around Maycomb with very little respect. Later in the conversation Mrs. Merri weather tells Scout, ‘Out there in J.
Grimes Everett’s land there’s nothing but sin and squalor’; (pg. 234). Harper Lee was showing us the difference between appearance and reality at the missionary circle. The ladies feel sorry for the Blacks in Africa but not the ones in Maycomb. They are both black, what difference does it make where they live? All the Blacks in Maycomb country are being prejudiced against by all the whites. A lesson on democracy teaches us that even whites can become prejudiced against other whites.
Cecil Jacobs talks about his current event article about Adolf Hitler persecuting the Jews. Miss Gates asks Scout, ‘What do you think [democracy] means?’ ; (pg. 248). Scout’s answer is, ‘Equal rights for all, special privileges for none’; (pg. 248). Miss Gates describes to Scout that ‘…
The difference between America and Germany [is that]. We are a democracy and Germany is a dictatorship… Over here we don’t believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced’; (pg. 248). The act that was ironic about her lesson on democracy was that she says, ‘There are no better people in the world then the Jews, and why Hitler doesn’t think so is a mystery to me ‘ (pg.
248). Later, Miss Gates talks with Miss Stephanie Crawford while leaving the courtroom and Scout overhears their conversation. Miss Gates says, ‘… It’s time somebody taught ’em a lesson, they were gett in’ way above themselves, an’ the next thing they think they can do is marry us’; (pg. 249).
Miss Gates is acting as a hypocrite. First, she tells the class that she thinks that the Jews are wonderful people and then behind the children’s back she says that they are awful people. The ironic part about Miss Gates democracy lesson was that America does not have democracy because the Blacks do not have equal rights, and the whites have all the special privileges. In the novel To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee she frequently uses the literary device named irony.
The examples of the missionary circle, the cementing of the tree, and the lesson on democracy shows the literary device of irony being used. In all these examples, the difference between appearance and reality was evident and thus adding mystery to the novel.