How is Romeo and Juliet similar to To Kill a Mockingbird in relation to theme, conflict, dynamic characters, etc.?
Romeo and Juliet is similar to To Kill a Mockingbird because in both works, people who are different from each other learn to love and respect each other. Romeo and Juliet are from feuding families, the Capulets and Montagues, but they fall in love and realize that they are not really different. As Juliet says, "What’s in a name? that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet" (II.2.47-48). In other words, she does not care if Romeo's last name is Montague (though her family--the Capulets--hates the Montagues), as she values him for himself, not for his name.
Similarly, in To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout learns to love and appreciate Boo Radley, who is developmentally disabled, and to understand the injustice with which Tom Robinson is treated in a racist society. Atticus, her father, tells her, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Atticus means that a person can't understand another until they really try to empathize with that person and see what he or she is experiencing. Therefore, the themes of understanding and intolerance are similar in both works, as are conflicts surrounding misunderstanding based on superficial differences. In addition, there are dynamic characters, such as Scout, Romeo, and Juliet, who change in the works and become more empathetic towards people who are different than they are.
At first glance, I think most people would classify Romeo and Juliet as a love story, while To Kill a Mockingbird is a story about racial injustice. But closer examination shows that both stories have to do with forbidden desire and the effect realizing that desire has on their communities. In the case of Romeo and Juliet, their love is forbidden by the conflict between their families, the Montagues and Capulets. This love leads to bloodshed (the death of Mercutio) but also to a recognition that the feud between the families is not based on any real difference (Juliet’s famous “Wherefore art thou Romeo” speech poses the question of how her Romeo, the one she loves, can also be Romeo Montague, the enemy of her family).
In To Kill a Mockingbird, the forbidden relationship at the center of the story, the sexual abuse of Mayella Ewell by her father, Bob, is camoflaged by another social split, this time between whites and blacks. In the same way Juliet finds that Romeo is no different for being a Montague, Mayella finds that Tom Robinson is kind and empathic despite the stereotypes about black people that her community perpetuates. And Mayella’s tentative opening up to Tom results in bloodshed, as in Shakespeare, only this time it is his own life that sacrificed.
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet certainly shares some superficial qualities with To Kill a Mockingbird, but one of the most significant points of comparison between the two works has to do with the external conflict between the characters.
Both works concern male and female characters from different families, and both focus on young protagonists. Both works also address tension within the communities of Verona and Maycomb, as well as the decision of some community members to take sides.
In Romeo and Juliet, the external conflict between the Capulets and their friends and the Montagues and their people results in bloodshed when Tybalt kills Mercutio. The same happens in To Kill a Mockingbird, when Tom is shot multiple times trying to escape from jail. The external conflict in both works peaks at the point of these deaths, and the rising action in each builds up the tension so that the reader can anticipate the tragedy before it happens.