How does Harper Lee present such themes as racism, social inequality, prejudice, innocence, youth, the coming of age, and morality and ethics in To Kill a Mockingbird?  

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, the theme concerning racism is most obviously expressed through the town's reaction to Tom Robinson's arrest and trial.

Author Lee reveals that, due to racism, many Southern white people of Maycomb hold the prejudiced belief that, as Atticus describes in his closing remarks to the jury, "all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women" (Ch. 20). Due to such beliefs, Robinson's jury declared him to be guilty despite all evidence showing how impossible it was for him to have committed the crime. Specifically, evidence in court revealed that Mayella had been bruised in her right eye, and only a left-handed attacker facing her would have been able to cause such an injury; Robinson has been crippled in his left arm and left hand since childhood. He is so crippled that he was unable to even place his left hand on the Bible when saying the oath before taking the witness stand.

Lee's theme concerning social inequality is further seen in Maycomb's relations with its African-African citizens. Maycomb is a racially segregated town, with the African-American population confined to living in what is called the Quarters, meaning what was once the slave quarters during the days of slavery. African Americans are also not entitled to education, leaving them to learn to read and write on their own and to work in only the blue-collar labor force as field hands and domestic servants.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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