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What are some examples of gender and social prejudice in To Kill A Mockingbird?

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mnovo08 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 7, 2010 at 2:53 AM via web

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What are some examples of gender and social prejudice in To Kill A Mockingbird?

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teacherscribe | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted December 7, 2010 at 4:52 AM (Answer #1)

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The examples of social prejudice are numerous.  One of the most prominent that comes to mind is when Aunt Alexandra won't let Scout associate with Walter Cunningham after the trial.  When Scout learns that one of the Cunninghams was on the jury and fought for an all out acquittal, she is bound and determined to invite Walter over and be his friend.  However, Aunt Alexandra is horrified at this because the Cunninghams are considered, socially, to be white trash.  Scout, as a Finch, belongs to a different social strata and is not to associate with someone beneath her.

Another example is during the trial when Atticus observes that the only thing that makes an ignoramous like Bob Ewell and an innocent man like Tom Robinson is the color of their skin.

Maybe the best example of gender bias is Aunt Alexandra, for she believes that Scout's antics, such as calling her father by his first name and wearing trousers instead of dresses, is leading to her ruination.  Alexandra is obviously a holdover of the 'southern belle' archetype where the woman's place in the house as a wife and social butterfly.  A great scene that illustrates this is when Alexandra has her social circle over to Atticus's house.  Scout, who is trying to please her aunt as best she can, tries to fit in.

Here the women do relatively nothing other than talk about J. Grimes Everett and his missionairy work and gossip about the verdict and the social ramification on the African Americans.

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missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 7, 2010 at 5:03 AM (Answer #2)

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus sweetly discusses this topic with his children when they wonder about juries. They ask why city folks don't sit on them. Atticus explains that many business owners fear their decisions would affect their customers' repeat visits. Then, the topic of women on juries arises. Atticus, the one we all grow to love and defend and admire, stereotypes many of Maycomb's women with the greatest care and ease.

He points to Mrs. Dubose as an example. She would speak whenever she felt like it and would try to get Judge Taylor to do things her way. Here is Atticus' explanation in his own words:

"For one thing, Miss Maudie can’t serve on a jury because she’s a woman -"

“You mean women in Alabama can’t—?” I was indignant.

“I do. I guess it’s to protect our frail ladies from sordid cases like Tom’s. Besides,” Atticus grinned, “I doubt if we’d ever get a complete case tried—the ladies’d be interrupting to ask questions.”

Jem and I laughed. Miss Maudie on a jury would be impressive. I thought of old Mrs. Dubose in her wheelchair—“Stop that rapping, John Taylor, I want to ask this man something.” Perhaps our forefathers were wise. (Chapter 23)

This demonstrates that women talk... and talk... and talk.

In chapter 24, more revealing details about women emerge. The women gather at an event that is all about impressing each other. This particular event, the Missionary Tea, takes place at the Finches house because Alexandra is hosting.

During this part, we see the white women find great empathy for the poor people that their missionary J. Grimes Everett serve, but they can't see the need right in front of their face. The black community is desperately pierced by what has happened to Tom. The white women hypocritically expect their black servants to just buck up and be strong. People need periods to grieve.

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