Jem says there are four kinds of folks, but Scout says there is one.  How does this relate to the theme of the book To Kill a Mockingbird?

1 Answer

gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Scout and Jem have an important discussion regarding why people are viewed and treated differently throughout Maycomb County in Chapter 23. The discussion follows a controversial comment made by Aunt Alexandra when she calls Scout's friend, Walter Cunningham, trash. Scout believes that Alexandra's comment is ridiculous because Walter is not like the Ewells. Jem tells Scout,

"There are four types of folks in the world. There's 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." (Lee 302)

An important theme in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird is social inequality. Jem essentially describes the various social classes of Maycomb's society beginning with the educated and working class, and ending with the segregated and uneducated Negro class. Jem explains to Scout that the difference between the social classes depends on whether the group is literate or not. Scout argues that anybody can learn to read, so Jem's idea of what makes people different is incorrect. Scout says,

"I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks" (Lee 304)

Jem says that when he was Scout's age, he used to think the same. He asks the important question, "If they're all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other?" (Lee 304) Jem's question reflects another important theme of the novel...humanity. Throughout the novel, the children witness how various people discriminate against others. Characters like Atticus and Miss Maudie treat other humanely, while characters like Bob Ewell and Miss Gates treat Negroes with contempt. The entire conversation between Jem and Scout reflects yet another theme in the novel...moral development. The fact that Scout is questioning why people are treated differently demonstrates her moral development.