Is To Kill a Mockingbird a positive or negative commentary on human nature?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I would say that the book offers a "hopeful view" of human nature. One of the most disappointing elements of the book is the idea that Tom Robinson's trial represents a "baby step" of progress. I take this a rather thin gruel in terms of moral and social progress and, in my view, the trial, the unchecked casual racism of the language employed by nearly all the characters, and the repeated concern for moral judgment are all indicative of a negative commentary on humanity. 

This seems both intentional and unintentional on Harper Lee's part. 

However, the characters of Atticus Finch, Jem Finch, Scout Finch, and Calpurnia each seem to present hopeful examples of people who can act as positive examples to others and cope with a world of morally compromised individuals.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I think that overall, it is a positive commentary on human nature.  There are a lot of negative portrayals of people, but they are balanced with positive ones.  On balance, I think the positive wins.  Although one of the mockingbirds dies, the other rescues the children.

For each negative event, there is a positive one.  Although Boo is portrayed as crazy and scary at the beginning of the book, he also sews Jim’s pants and puts a blanket on Scout’s shoulder.

Even though racism is a dominant theme in the book, there are positive examples.  Dolphus Raymond is an example of one of the townspeople who is not racist.  Heck Tate is also more open minded.

For each Bob Ewell in the book, there is an Atticus.  The book actually portrays a realistic world, expect that the good wins in the end- when Boo Radley kills Ewell.


Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial