What are some consequences of lack of knowledge about social class, race, and age in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Social Class.  Scout learns several lessons about the Cunninghams during the course of the novel. She discovers the hard way from Calpurnia that any house guest--even young Walter--should be treated with respect. Scout is surprised to learn that it is a Cunningham who is the lone holdout on the jury, even though the man had apparently been one of the members of the lynch mob who had previously come to kill Tom. (In the film version, Scout is warned by Atticus not to greet Walter Sr. when he quietly comes to deliver farm goods in repayment for his attorney's fees; it will only embarrass the man, Atticus tells her.) 

Age.  Scout and Jem are both blamed by Mr. Avery for the unexpected snowfall that hits Maycomb in Chapter 8. "It's bad children like you makes the seasons change," he tells them. The two children are in for a big surprise when their old and "feeble" father turns out to be able to defend himself after all: They never knew Atticus was once "the deadest shot in Maycomb County," and they immediately develop a new-found respect for him. Scout's relationship with Jem begins to deteriorate when he nears puberty and wants to spend less time with his little sister. 

Race.  Scout and Jem get an education about the ways of Maycomb's Negroes when Calpurnia decides to take them with her to the local black church. The children learn that the congregation is poor, but the message taught inside is not unlike their own church. Scout uses the "N" word regularly--she has picked the term up at school and doesn't understand its hurtful nature--until Atticus explains that it is "common." The children believe Dolphus Raymond to be a wicked man because he has a black mistress and prefers the company of Negroes, but when Scout and Dill finally meet him, they recognize that he is both "fascinating" and passionate about the way white people mistreat African Americans.


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