I'm writing an essay about social class in To Kill a Mockingbird and I was wondering if anyone could give me a shout out. I'm desperate! :o

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jem points out in Chapter 23 of To Kill a Mockingbird that there are "four kinds of folks in the world." Perhaps he is a bit too immature to recognize his own limitations in international matters, but he hits the nail on the head as far as the local social classes go. According to Jem, there are

  • "... the ordinary kind like us and the neighbors..."
  • "... there's the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods..."
  • "... the kind like the Ewells down at the dump..."
  • "... and the Negroes."

This is a fair assessment of the people that Jem has seen in Maycomb. The Finches and most of their neighbors are regular folks--white, middle-class and peace-loving. The Cunninghams and Ewells are separated among the lower class whites: The Cunninghams are poor but basically honest; the Ewells are welfare cases and untrustworthy, "the disgrace of Maycomb." (Jem apparently overlooks the Cunninghams' willingness to lynch Tom Robinson in cold blood.) As for the black citizens of Maycomb, they are grouped together on the bottom of the Maycomb social totem pole.

There are others that don't quite fit in Jem's class structure, particularly Dolphus Raymond (and possibly Boo Radley and Miss Caroline). But Jem's "four kinds of people" are a fairly accurate breakdown of the Maycomb social system. Jem has learned that the classes don't mix: Alexandra won't allow Walter Cunningham Jr. to visit the Finch household because he is "trash." The Ewells aren't welcome anywhere, and apparently even the Cunninghams have nothing to do with them. The Finch children cause a bit of a stir at Calpurnia's church, and Scout never does get to visit Calpurnia at her own home. Atticus' visit to Tom Robinson's widow--a white man paying a social call to an African-American woman--is a truly rare occurrence in Maycomb. Such was the way of the world in 1930s Alabama.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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