Loosely based on Harper Lee's childhood, Scout grew up in a southern Alabama town (Maycomb) in the 1930s. This setting should indicate the culture in which she grew up. Scout narrates on the class distinctions more than once and this shows that there were clear distinctions and separations between rich and poor. More significantly, racism was still very much alive and the separation between white and black was even more pronounced. Most, but not all, people in town still held to these class and race distinctions (even the righteous, but hypocritical, women of the missionary circle).
Scout and Jem are in a unique position having Atticus as a father. Although they live in a town ensconced in race and class tensions, they have a father who is the model of just behavior and thinking. He educates them on the injustice of racism and the ignorance of those who think that rich families are superior to poor. Not only that, it is his job as a lawyer to practice justice. Since he has such a stellar reputation of being honest and open-minded, he is given the task of representing Tom. Atticus gives Scout perspective on their small southern town within the perspectives of the country and society as a whole. Through this education, highlighted by the trial and encounters with the Ewells, Scout learns to look at things in more than one way: in this case, from the perspective of tradition and from the perspective of a progressive like Atticus. This is one of the hallmarks of the book: how she learns to look at things differently, from different perspectives. She and Jem learn to consider the racist side and the just side. They also learn to consider the perspectives of individuals: Walter Cunningham, Boo, Radley, and even Bob Ewell. A poignant moment for Scout occurs near the end of the book:
Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.