Many characters in To Kill a Mockingbird are outsiders in their society. How does Harper Lee try to change our attitude towards outsiders?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The people of Maycomb seem to have a genuine fear of the unknown, and the few outsiders mentioned in the story are subject to suspicion and ridicule. Scout paints a picture early in the story of Maycomb's isolationist view of the outside world--

There was... nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County...  (Chapter 1)

--and she reminds the reader that "Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself" by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Scout's narrative is quick to point out the apprehension felt toward outsiders by Maycomb's citizens, but author Harper Lee also shows that most of this is unfounded; many of them, in fact, seem to be less peculiar than Maycomb's own group of unusual characters. Dill is an outsider, visiting each summer from his home in Meridian, Mississippi. He hails from a dysfunctional family who farms him out to relatives during the summer and holidays. But Dill proves to be a sensitive, intelligent lad who displays a moral side for fairness not seen by many in Maycomb. The way in which Tom Robinson is treated by the prosecutor literally makes Dill sick to his stomach, and he sympathizes with Tom's plight.

Miss Caroline Fisher is both a newcomer and an outsider to Maycomb. She hails from Northern Alabama, an area that the people of Maycomb consider full of "peculiarities indigenous to that region" and filled with "persons of no background." But Atticus explains to Scout about tolerance and that Miss Caroline deserves a chance to learn Maycomb's ways.

We could not expect her to learn all of Maycomb's ways in one day, and we could not hold her responsible when she knew no better.  (Chapter 3)

The Cunninghams of Old Sarum are considered outsiders who went to the movies on Sundays, "experimented with stumphole whiskey," and "attended dances at the county's riverside gambling hell, the Dew-Drop Inn and Fishing Camp." But the Cunninghams are also honest, hard-working people who "hadn't taken anything from or off anybody since they migrated to the New World." It is a Cunningham who is the lone holdout on the jury, having gained the respect for Atticus after he boldly stood up to them alone at the jail. Atticus guesses correctly when he allows the Cunningham to be seated on the jury, knowing he has a friend in his corner. 

melissazamora7 | Student

Harper Lee shows us that we judge people without knowing what they had to go through. We can see that everybody judges outsiders because theyre different and arent exactly like society and we need to know that what really matters is what is inside not rumors or things other people say. 

dartharceus | Student
she tries to tell us that outsiders are not as bad as they seem.we should put ourselves in their shoes and try to accept them, just like you would wish to when you are the outsider
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To Kill a Mockingbird

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