One of the themes in this book is gender discrimination. What are the social implications of the gender discrimination that goes on in To Kill a Mockingbird?
An example of social discrimination could be the specific way Scout is expected to act in order to become a "lady".
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The most obvious example of gender discrimination in To Kill a Mockingbird is that women are not yet allowed to sit on juries. Women won the right to vote via the 19th Amendment in 1920, but in Alabama, women still could not serve on juries in the 1930s. Little girls like Scout were expected to wear dresses and be ladylike, and many of the women--particularly Miss Stephanie and Aunt Alexandra--reminded her repeatedly that she would never become a lady if she wore overalls all the time. Women seem to have little say in town matters: When Atticus is summoned by the group of people to warn him about the possible trouble Tom may face while housed in the Maycomb jail, they are all men. Most of the women--Miss Stephanie, Miss Rachel, Miss Maudie, Aunt Alexandra and the other members of the Missionary Circle--do not work. The only women who do work, like Scout's teachers and Eula May (the telephone operator), hold traditional jobs that most men would not seek.
Interestingly, author Harper Lee does not seem particularly sympathetic to the gender inequity that the women in her story face. Most of the women in the novel are treated harshly: Miss Stephanie is a gossip; Dill's Aunt Rachel is a closet alcoholic; Mrs. Merriweather is a hypocrite; Mrs. Dubose is a hateful racist; and Scout's teachers, Miss Caroline and Miss Gates, are far from being competent educators. Mayella Ewell is an ignorant weakling who sides with her father's story about Tom even though Bob beats her and takes advantage of her. Other minor characters, like the Misses Tutti and Frutti, are eccentrics who are not taken seriously by the townspeople of Maycomb. Females are most definitely second-class citizens--certainly not as low on the social scale as Negroes--but they are also treated with a type of reverence and respectful fragility, typical of the male-dominated Southern world of the 1930s.
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