In To Kill a Mockingbird, how are ideas regarding social alienation, prejudice, courage, and the status quo developed?Can you please provide me with ideas for a thesis and 3 points regarding any...

In To Kill a Mockingbird, how are ideas regarding social alienation, prejudice, courage, and the status quo developed?

Can you please provide me with ideas for a thesis and 3 points regarding any of these topics?


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akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I agree with the posts featured, especially the last couple that identify human strength as the critical elements in addressing social and personal problems.  It seems that in a character such as Atticus' courage and the ability to rise to the facing down the tyranny of the majority is the key element that will be able to challenge the institutional forces and social powers that deny fairness and justice.  It is this courage, and Atticus' demonstration of it that allows individuals to achieve their promises and possibilities and is the reason why segregation and discrimination provided an excellent testing ground of such values in their ability to overcome personal misery and social injustice.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The trait of courage is one that moves from physical bravery to fortitude of the soul in "To Kill a Mockingbird." In the second chapter, Scout is brave enough to stand up and inform Miss Caroline that her approach to the Cunninghams is wrong, and the children witness Jem's being brave enough to take the dare to go into the Radley's yard. When the children watch Atticus shoot the mad dog, they realize that their father has the physical courage of a true man.

Later, the children learn about fortitude as they witness Mrs. Dubose overcome her morphine addiction and Miss Maudie deal with the loss of her house to fire.  In explanation Atticus tells his children that courage is not an outward display, but, instead, is the fortitude to face a situation in which you know you may lose, but you challenge yourself and the situation nonetheless.

Atticus displays such fortitude as he defends Tom Robinson.  Threatened by angry mobs, called pejorative names, having his children insulted, this bookish man with eyeglasses stands his moral and physical ground, using inner strength to defeat others. So, too, does Boo Radley display true courage as, risking his own safety, he comes to the defense of the children when they are attacked by Bob Ewell. 

Thus, the motif of courage runs throughout the novel as characters display bravery, moral fiber, and true courage.

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

One idea that comes to mind here relates to the effects of violating the status quo in Maycomb. They are not good. In fact, those who violate the mores of Maycomb are recognized and dealt with, in one way or another. This can be seen in three characters, specifically.

Atticus: For defending Tom Robinson, Atticus is criticized by his neighbors. He becomes the subject of their gossip, and many examples of this are found in the story, especially in the scene with Alexandra's Missionary Circle. Far more seriously, because he violated the status quo and strongly presented Tom's case, Bob Ewell tries to kill his children.

Tom Robinson: Tom forgot "his place" and treated Mayella Ewell with kindness. He even dared to feel sorry for her. It cost him his life.

Dolphus Raymond: In choosing to live in the black community with his bi-racial children, Raymond was scorned and shunned completely. To avoid further, more serious repercussions for his conduct, he pretended to be an alcoholic. He understood the people of Maycomb.

The novel suggests many thesis ideas. The eNotes links below will take you to discussions that will help you formulate some additional ones. Good luck.

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marilynn07 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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Mayella Ewell is an example of social alienation. No one in Macomb will have anything to do with the Ewell family or children. Mayella is socially isolated because she is raising 7 children with little or no help from her alcoholic abusive father Bob Ewell.  We don't know what happened to her mother. We do know that Tom Robinson felt sorry for her and was falsely accused of rape. We do know that Tom Robinson may have been Mayella's only social contact as Mayella did not attend school.  We can surmise that Mayella's father abused her physically and perhaps sexually.

Mayella's character exemplifies all three items in your question. The people of Maycomb will have nothing to do with the Ewells because they are "white trash".  The "good" people of Maycomb are prejudiced against the Ewells because they are beneath their status. The black people of Maycomb will have nothing to do with the Ewells because they are trouble.

As long as everyone minds their own business and no boundaries are crossed, the status quo is preserved. But, because Mayella tried to kiss Tom Robinson, the status quo was upset.  Mayella was desperate, and Tom was a nice guy who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

krishna-agrawala's profile pic

krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

I think the following statement in Post #2 is rather inappropriate:

"We can surmise that Mayella's father abused her physically and perhaps sexually."

To Kill a Mockingbird makes a strong statement against prejudices and discrimination of all kinds, not just that against African Americans. Unfortunately, the above statement reflects a prejudice against people like Mayella's father.

Sexual abuse of a daughter is a very serious charge - much more serious charge levelled against Robinson by Mayella's father. Such a charge, or even allusion, should not be made against anyone - not even a fictional character without substantial proof. The novel To Kill a Mockingbird contains nothing to justify such a remark. The only justification is - this type of people are likely to commit an act like this. Prejudices consist of precisely this kind of reasoning.

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lordoftheflies13's profile pic

lordoftheflies13 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

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As a matter of fact you are incorrect. Mayella Ewell was abused sexually and physically by her father. You can see this through the quotation "she says what her papa do to her don't count" 

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