From Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, please provide 2-3 quotes that show people's racist attitudes changed.

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To say that any one individual changed from being racist in Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird would be stretching it. After the trial of Tom Robinson, it would be more precise to say that the Cunninghams from Old Sarum took a baby step towards becoming less racist. Right before the trial started, Link Deas told Atticus that he was most worried about "that Old Sarum bunch" acting up and causing problems (145). Deas was referring to the Cunninghams who live in the forest and have been a large growing family for many generations in Maycomb county. That means that their ancestors probably owned slaves or at least fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. This also suggests that they would not support a black man's word against a white man's on any day of the week. Yet again, this is the family who takes the baby step forward. Both Atticus and Miss Maudie have great explanations for the Cunninghams as well as Maycomb as a whole.

First, Atticus explains to Jem and Scout the following about Mr. Cunningham (Walter's father) after the mob incident:

"Mr. Cunningham is basically a good man . . . he just has his blind spots along with the rest of us. . . So it took an eight-year-old child to bring 'em to their senses, didn't it? . . .That proves something that a gang of wild animals can be stopped, simply because they're still human" (157).

Atticus is teaching the kids that people are good at heart even if they get riled up in mobs sometimes. This event didn't change Mr. Cunningham's views on race, necessarily, but Scout's innocence brought him down from his mob mentality enough for him to make a better choice than to hurt someone. The fact that Mr. Cunningham could be talked down from killing a black man says that he can be reasoned with--to a point-- and that's a good step for 1935 in the deep South.

Later, Atticus finds out that it is one of the Cunninghams on the jury who stood his ground for Tom Robinson during the deliberation time. Jem is amazed when his father tells him this and responds with the following:

"Golly Moses . . . one minute they're tryin' to kill him and the next they're tryin' to turn him loose. . . I'll never understand those folks as long as I live" (222).

Clearly this shows that times are changing the minds and attitudes of some of the people in Maycomb, even to the shock of a young boy.

One last quote that shows that the attitude of Maycomb has shifted is when Miss Maudie says the following to Aunt Alexandra after Atticus has just gone to tell Helen Robinson that her husband was shot trying to escape prison. Alexandra asks Maudie who actually cares about what Atticus is doing for that town and Maudie says,

"The handful of people in this town who say that fair play is not marked White Only; the handful of people who say a fair trial is for everybody, not just us; the handful of people with enough humility to think, when they look at a Negro, there but for the Lord's kindness am I" (236).

When once Maycomb could have been full of racist people, Maudie is saying that the ones who come from the best family backgrounds support Atticus and fair play. Even though they may be peaceful and not outspoken, they still show their support in different ways and that is a fundamental change in attitude, too.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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