There are many secrets that float through the town of Maycomb, and they serve as a large atmospheric part of the Southern Gothic component of this novel. Let's recall a few!
- One of the largest secrets is the "origin story" of Boo Radley, who the town believes to be some kind of monster who prowls around at night eating small animals, but who really is just a sweet, reclusive man and the product of a lifetime of abuse.
- By extension of the Boo myth, Jem and Scout keep the secret of the knothole in the tree on the Radley's property where small gifts, like chewing gum, mysteriously appears; they also keep secret the loss of Jem's pants after they were sneaking around the Radley's yard at night.
- Mrs. Dubose, the cranky neighbor, has a secret morphine addiction which is only revealed to the children after her death, while Dill's Aunt Rachel has a secret drinking problem.
- Meanwhile, Mr. Dolphus Raymond, the man everyone thinks is a drunk, is actually only pretending to be to avoid conversation.
- Atticus is secretly quite adept at shooting a gun, despite his refusal to participate in this kind of activity. His talent is only revealed when he kills the mad dog.
- Miss Maudie has a top secret recipe for Lane Cake.
There are, of course, many more secrets, but this list is a good start!
The forbidden secrets may include: the alleged rape, which really involved a white woman making inappropriate overtures to a black man; domestic violence with a father beating his daughter; mental illness in a family. In a small Southern town in this time period, a family's reputation was all important. In a time of segregation, any interracial "romance" would be taboo. In these times, the black man would always be suspect and public hostilities would run high. The mob mentality at the jail was diffused only when Atticus could personally relate to individuals he had helped in the past or by making polite social connections on a familial level. That mob mentality of black vs white could also be a forbidden secret.