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How do class divisions influence events in the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird"?Maycomb is...

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joe4 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted August 15, 2009 at 1:49 AM via web

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How do class divisions influence events in the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird"?

Maycomb is the setting with the classes of the modern poor finches, the poor Cunninghams,the really poor Ewells, then the negroes.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 15, 2009 at 2:54 AM (Answer #1)

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In "To Kill a Mockingbird," the class divisions are pivotal to the themes of Harper Lee's novel.  Regarding the main theme of Prejudice and Tolerance, the divisions among such families as the Radleys, the Cunninghams, and the Ewells are cause for the exposition of certain attitudes and remarks by others in the community as the caste system in Maycomb often functions to set behavior standards for the individuals in that caste. 

Atticus Finch, for instance, has a prominent place in the community, one which he must uphold.  That he is able to be respectable to all people in Maycomb is an attestment to the sterling character of Atticus.  For, his tolerance of all people is based upon his sense of fairness, one which most of the citizens of Macomb respect despite some of their individual objections.  On the other hand, those who suffer from "the disease of Maycomb," call his pejorative epithets.  The Cunninghams, while poor, do maintain some dignity because they do not accept charity or social pity like the despicable Ewells, who are classified as "White Trash."  And, while the negroes are below the Ewells in one way, they are above them in dignity.  Tom Robinson, in contrast to the Ewells who are racially biased (Prejudice), has a sense of human charity and kindness (Tolerance).

In addition, the conditions of Tom's Robinson's and other negroes' characters, such as Calpurnia, point out the theme of Courage and Cowardice.  For, Tom has the courage to help Mayella Ewell, while she is too cowardly to admit even under oath the truth that she enticed Tom to come near her.  Nevertheless, the restrictive society of Maycom chooses to cling blindly to what has always been and condemn him simply because he is a negroe, rather than to change its ways and progress.  Perceiving Atticus as a threat to this blind clinging to traditional beliefs, his neighbors insult him, a mob approaches him at one point, and Bob Ewell feels justified in attacking the children of Atticus Finch. Clearly, then, the role of class in Lee's novel is intertwined with many of the themes as well as the events in "To Kill a Mockingbird."


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