How does Harper Lee presents ideas about society in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird?

Expert Answers
gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Harper Lee explores the fictional county of Maycomb throughout the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, and portrays the various levels of society in unique ways. As a whole, the community of Maycomb is filled with helping citizens who treat others with respect. Despite their innocent demeanor, Harper Lee exposes their deep seeded prejudice towards African Americans and lower-class white citizens. The majority of society receives its news via gossip and rumors. Several characters throughout the novel are discriminated because of their different lifestyle choices. Boo Radley and Dolphus Raymond become victims of negative rumors because they stand out from the status quo.

Harper Lee portrays the upper-class female citizens of Maycomb as hypocritical Christians. During Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle, several ladies share their views on race and religion, which happen to be both ignorant and hypocritical. Lee uses these characters to suggest that tolerance is not associated with affluence. Lower class citizens of Maycomb are portrayed as both hard-working and lazy. Lee uses the Cunningham and Ewell families to suggest that integrity is learned and passed down from father to child. Lee portrays the African American community of Maycomb to be closely knit and supportive of each other. The congregation's donations to Helen Robinson and their appearance at Tom's trial depict their support for each other. In many ways, the black community of Maycomb is more tolerant than the white community, which suggests that race and character are not related.

Harper Lee also shares her ideas on the education system throughout the novel. Scout's teacher, Miss Caroline, does not facilitate and encourage Scout's enthusiasm for reading and writing. Instead, Miss Caroline adheres to the rigid education system that impedes learning, rather than supports it. The judicial system in Maycomb's society is seriously flawed and affected by prejudice. Tom Robinson is wrongly convicted, and Lee suggests that injustice is commonplace throughout the South in the 1930's. Harper Lee portrays Macomb's society to be steeped in traditional beliefs and resistant to change.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question