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Racism is certainly the most obvious social injustice explored in To Kill a Mockingbird. White man's law ruled during the Depression-era Deep South: Jim Crow laws legally restricted the rights of African Americans, and in the segregated society of the time, whites and blacks rarely interacted socially. In Maycomb, the local school is for whites-only; there is no mention of a school for black children. Black citizens must wait until all of the white folks are seated in the courtroom before they can enter, and even then they must sit separately in the balcony. Black people must always address white people with respect, using "mister," "miss" or "missus" at all times. Most of the African American characters in the novel toe the line, silently enduring their place at the bottom of Maycomb's social ladder. They understand the severe consequences that might arise should they anger the wrong white man. Women's rights laws are still in their infancy in 1930s Alabama, and men dominated political and business matters. Women were not allowed to serve on juries, and black women were not allowed to vote. Children's rights are also an issue: Jem and Scout are automatically blamed by the superstitious Mr. Avery for the bad weather that hits Maycomb; and the Ewell children are victims of the dark side of parenting. Atticus and Miss Maudie are about the only adults who don't talk down to the children. Mental illness is an important theme, thanks to the ever-present but rarely seen Boo Radley. He is allowed to be taken by his father and imprisoned within the Radley house, turning a restless teen into a withdrawn "phantom." Boo, the son of an old Maycomb family, is soon the most gossiped about man in town. Feared by most of the people, he is merely misunderstood--a man who prefers to see the world outside at night when there are no people around. Boo is also an outsider, and people who are different (or who come from outside southern Alabama) are feared and mistrusted.
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