How does Harper Lee challenge the values relating to prejudice in her times in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Author Harper Lee gives a realistic impression of racial relations in the Deep South during the 1930s. Segregation rules the day: Blacks and whites live apart, socialize separately, attend different schools, and congregate at separate churches. The "N" word is used often, and Negroes are at the bottom of Maycomb's social ladder--even below the disgraceful Ewells. But there are people who show tolerance toward all people. Atticus is the most obvious example. He is colorblind when it comes to whites and blacks, and he treats people of all colors with respect. When Scout uses the "N" word, he warns her that it is "common"; Scout rarely uses the word afterward. Miss Maudie and Link Deas are other characters who treat Negroes with respect instead of like slaves, like Aunt Alexandra and Mrs. Merriweather. Calpurnia is one black character who is able to mix with both worlds, earning the respect of the Finch family as well as that of her church. When she brings Jem and Scout to her First Purchase Church, she breaks the unspoken rule that only blacks are allowed. Jem and Scout find that the congregation welcomes them politely and enthusiastically.

Other forms of prejudice are also addressed in the character of Boo Radley, who is scorned by most of the town because of his eccentricities and invisibility. Dolphus Raymond is outcast by the white population because he prefers the company of black people. Scout sees first-hand the prejudice displayed by the missionary circle tea regarding their views of the Mruna tribe and Maycomb's own black population. She also recognizes the conflicting rhetoric of Miss Gates, who hates Hitler's condemnation of the Jews but supports the subjugation of blacks in Maycomb.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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