How is prejudice created, sustained and possibly overcome in To Kill a Mockingbird? In your answer, refer to two characters.

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The two most obvious characters who suffer from the prejudice of the townspeople of Maycomb are Boo Radley and Tom Robinson. A recluse in his own home, Boo is believed to only come out at night where he is accused of "Any stealthy small crimes committed in Maycomb." Boo's reputation--and nickname--is based on his longtime seclusion stemming from an earlier incident with the law when he was a teenager. Jem, Scout and Dill become so engrossed with the possibility of catching a glimpse of Boo that they risk their own safety to get a peek. Eventually they come to see that Boo is their friend and not the neighborhood ghoul, and they finally realize that he deserved to be left in peace. In the end, the children find that Boo has been keeping an eye on them all along when he comes to their rescue on Halloween, saving them in heroic fashion from the murderous hands of Bob Ewell.

The white community of Maycomb assumes that Tom Robinson is guilty of raping Mayella Ewell since the word of a white man (or woman) is always believed over the word of a black man. Tom's imposing size works against him, but it is the

"... evil assumption--that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women..."  (Chapter 20)

that turns the jury against him before the trial even begins. Tom is able to convince a few of the spectators of his innocence through his humble and respectable manner, but in the end, the jury votes to convict; and when Tom is killed trying to escape prison, most of the white citizens of Maycomb view it as

"Typical of a nigger to cut and run... to have no plan, no thought for the future... Nigger always come out in them."  (Chapter 25)  

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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