Explain the role of racial prejudice in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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On one level, To Kill a Mockingbird is a commentary on race relations in the South during the Great Depression.  As Scout and Jem get older, they begin to perceive explicit differences in the attitudes of people in the community towards blacks.  Atticus, for example, believes in the dignity and worth of all people, regardless of race, and this shows in his words and actions, not the least of which is his decision to represent Tom Robinson to the best of ability, even though he knows from the beginning that he will lose.  The Ewells, residing at the very bottom of the social structure, rely on blacks to provide them something to feel superior to; therefore, their prejudice toward blacks is absolutely necessary.  Many, if not most residents of Maycomb County share the belief that as disgusting as the Ewells are, they are still white, and therefore inherently better than blacks.