How is prejudice portrayed in To Kill a Mockingbird?
Prejudice in Harper Lee's Maycomb can be found in all shapes and sizes, in adults and children, and in both black and white citizens. The primary and most troubling form is that of racial prejudice, commonplace in the Deep South of the Depression era. Racial prejudice can be found in the elder members of the Ewell family, the "disgrace of Maycomb for three generations." Father Bob and daughter Mayella send an innocent black man, Tom Robinson, to his death because of their hatred of black men. Bob further harrasses Tom's widow, Helen, after Tom's death; and son Burris hates his teacher, Miss Caroline, who he calls a " 'snot-nosed slut of a schoolteacher.' " The Cunningham family of Old Sarum attempts to lynch Tom before the trial, but they think better of it, and one of the family members initially is the lone holdout on the jury. Tom's jury fails to act on the evidence presented, instead convicting him because of his skin color, since
"The jury couldn't possibly be expected to take Tom's word against the Ewells'." (Chapter 9)
Children, like Scout's Cousin Francis and her classmate, Cecil Jacobs, routinely use the "N" word--as does Scout until Atticus explains its "common" usage and forbids her from using it. Atticus's neighbors, specifically Miss Stephanie and Nathan Radley also use the "N" word: Miss Stephanie jokes about keeping a lookout for a "white nigger" after Nathan chases the children from his property with a shotgun blast. Nathan apparently has no qualms about killing a black man should one return to his property. Racial prejudice can also be found in the black community: One black woman, Lula, is not happy when Calpurnia brings Jem and Scout to her " 'nigger church.' "
There are other forms of prejudice, such as that against women (Alabama does not allow women to serve on juries); children (Jem and Scout are blamed by Dick Avery for the unseasonably cold weather that hits Maycomb in Chapter 8); and outsiders (Miss Caroline is scrutinized because she comes from northern Alabama; the Misses Tutti and Frutti are scorned because they are both Yankees and Republicans; and Boo Radley is feared because of his mental state and reclusiveness).