In To Kill a Mockingbird, set in Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930s, how must a person behave in order to be considered "responsible"?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Maycomb society, responsible people are those who observe the Southern traditions of that time, including strict racial segregation. Racial prejudice is the way of life in Maycomb. Anyone who violates the code of racial conduct is scorned and ostracized as being irresponsible and not deserving of respect.

Mayella Ewell and Dolphus Raymond are two examples of how not to behave in order to be respected in Maycomb. Mayella pursues Tom Robinson, a young black man; Dolphus Raymond, who is white, pretends to be an alcoholic so that the citizens of Maycomb will have a way to understand how he could choose to live with a black woman and father her children. In Maycomb, Mayella Ewell and Dolphus Raymond are viewed with contempt for violating the rules of Maycomb society.

Other social conventions are presented in the novel. Responsible women dress up each day, regardless of the terrible heat. They attend teas and church meetings. They support missionary work in foreign lands.

Responsible men work and pay their bills. They do not accept charity. Mr. Walter Cunningham is a good example. He has no money, but he pays Atticus for legal services with whatever he does have of value, including that which he has grown or harvested. Bob Ewell, however, is contemptable because he has no work ethic.

The culture in Maycomb in the 1930s is presented as one in which people are considered responsible if, and only if, they follow the social code of conduct.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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